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Saturday, February 17, 2007

Annals of Shamapova

A reader has directed LR's attention to the fact, as reported by Radio Liberty, that

The world's top-ranked female tennis player, Maria Sharapova of Russia, has donated $100,000 to aid recovery from the 1986 Chornobyl nuclear disaster. Sharapova made the announcement at a news conference at United Nations headquarters in New York, where she was also made a UN goodwill ambassador. Sharapova, whose family lived not far from Chornobyl at the time of the accident, said she hoped the money would help rebuild schools, hospitals, and sports facilities near the site of the accident. The explosion at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine in April 1986 was the world's worst civilian nuclear accident. Its long-term health effects are still unclear, but the UN has predicted it will cause up to 9,000 extra deaths from cancer in the most affected areas.
Apparently, some idiot Russophiles think this speaks well of Maria. Many thinking Russians, of course, may be annoyed that Sharapova chose to make her donation to the Ukraine instead of to Russia. At least, she's trying to remedy (two decades after the fact) a problem caused by Russia, so it may serve to reduce Russophobia in Ukraine to some extent. They may also be perturbed by the fact that the only way a Russian celebrity gets to be a high-profile Goodwill Ambassador is by . . . moving to the United States.

Her level of personal generosity is quite unimpressive, too -- at least for those capapable of basic math. Sharapova is the 62nd highest-paid celebrity in the world, and Russia's highest paid celebrity by a wide margin. She has an annual income of $18.2 million. By donating $100,000 Maria has surrendered 0.5% of her annual income. That's like a person who earns $100,000 per year donating $500 to charity (actually, any economist would tell you that 0.5% of income means far less to a millionaire than to an ordinary person because of what's still left over afterwards, so the actual burden on Maria is even less than this suggests). What's more, if we look at the beneficiary side of the transaction, it is estimated that there over 4 million people in the Ukraine, Byelorussia and western Russia still live on contaminated ground. So Maria has donated an impressive 2.5 cents to each one for cleanup work (or, about $100 to each person who will perish in an horrible way from the contamination according to the UN estimate -- is she covering their funeral expenses?).

And apparently, Sharapova wasn't willing to cough up a cent until she could receive the title of "Goodwill Ambassador" in return. In fact, there's nothing to say that her sponsors have not fronted her the donation in order to gain the publicity so as to increase her fortune from endorsement even more exponentially -- so it may not have cost Maria a single cent, and may in fact profit her to the tune of millions. A real humanitarian would at least have gone so far as to have made the delivery in Ukraine, drawing the camera's attention to the plight of oppressed people there, victims of the Soviet era of oppression. But apparently, Maria has little if any desire to actually set foot upon her homeland if she can avoid it.

Meanwhile, though she has risen to #1 in the world for a second time, Maria has yet to ever win a tournament while number ranked one and her 2007 has been full of humiliating losses to lower-ranked players. In other words, she's a classic Russian: all illusion, no substance. One must admit, though, that the illusion is flashy and eye-catching, just like all those military parades through Red Square in the days of Brezhnev. So ironic, that the country responsible for those mighty spectacles now no longer exists.

But above all, what's absolutely f-a-s-c-i-n-a-t-i-n-g about this is that LR had no intention whatsoever of bringing up the subject until several Russophile wackos (who've been banned for lying and spamming the blog) did so. These are the very same morons who criticize LR for talking about Sharapova, claiming (dishonestly) we are "obsessed" with her. Yet they bring up the subject.

One can only heave a heavy sigh and say: And so it goes in Russia.

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