Monday, August 18, 2008

Tom's Olympic observations...

Watching the Olympics in our adopted country of Russia is simply…different than if we were in the US. We love Russia & her people…& we still love America. Our feelings are mixed when the two countries compete against each other in the games.

Russia is getting NBC’s feed of the tv coverage, with Russian commentators. At every commercial break, we have a block of basically the same 4 ads. We know the Russian broadcast is paid for by Lukoil (Russia’s Luke Oil Co); Megaphone (a Russian mobile phone company); Sport Kanal (Russia’s Sports Channel) & America’s Nike Co. (“I’ve got soul but I’m not a soldier.” While this ditty makes sense if English is your primary language, it doesn’t make sense for non-English speakers…which begs the question ‘who was in charge of Nike’s international marketing plan?’ In a global context, this ad campaign falls short.) If there are a few minutes of air time to fill, we’ll watch these same four ads several times!!

I noticed a cultural difference highlighted in the Russian Megaphone commercial & Nike’s ad. In Nike’s spot, close ups of past & present famous athletes are shown. Even if it’s a team sport, such as basketball, only Kobe Bryant or LeBron James are shown; & always by themselves. In typical Western culture, the message communicated is that ‘the individual is most important.’ Contrast this to the Megaphone ad: several large groups & pairs of people are out in a city’s square. Each person holds up their phone while a computer generated piece of green screen ascends from each phone. All of these little pieces come together, forming a large screen in the sky for all the people to collectively enjoy the sport event shown on the screen. In a typical Russian/European cultural value, the message which is communicated is that ‘together we are better & stronger that we are individually.’

While I believe that the two cultures are simply different, & not wrong, I wonder: which is more Biblical?


  1. Wow! Very interesting.

  2. We miss you guys! We've been enjoying the Olympics here too, and finding it hard to know who to cheer for! I esp. like listening to the gymnastics commentators. They have a friendly banter.