As the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, grow closer and closer, threats of terrorism loom, as do corruption theories.
According to a report by The Star, President Putin has spent an estimated $50 billion (yes, billion) on Olympic preparations. By comparison, Vancouver spent $8.7 billion on the Winter Games when they hosted in 2010, and China spent $40 billion when preparing for the Bejing 2008 Summer Olympics. Of note is the fact that the Summer Olympics hosts forty-one sporting events, whereas the Winter Olympics are made up of only fifteen events. If Vancouver could host the games on a budget of under $10 billion, then the question still remains: where is Russia’s extra $40 billion really going?
Additionally, considering the fact that Sochi is a resort town popular for its balmy weather and beaches, one may also wonder: where will the necessary snow come from?
Surely the city cannot rely on the weather gods to produce the kind of snow fall necessary to cover the mountains with enough powder for events such as skiing, snowboarding, and bobsledding. In case the miracle does not occur, Putin has that covered. In fact, Yahoo! Sports reported in November 2013 that Putin has been collecting the accumulation of 16 million cubic feet of snow, which has been stored under insulated blankets, since 2012.
In addition, Russia erected a full forty thousand brand-spanking-new hotel rooms, paid for by both private and public funding, as well as a new rooftop theater on the Fisht Olympic stadium. The latter was created to hold six locomotives as well as a recreation of former Russian Emperor Peter the Great, leading five ships, which will stand as a lavish display for the opening ceremonies.
$8.7 billion was also spent on the building of a four-lane highway and railway alongside the mountain river of Mzymta, according to former deputy prime minister Boris Nemtsov.
“The whole thing is hubris. He wishes to present Russia’s success,” said an expert on Russia, Sir Andrew Wood, from Chatham House, the London-based international affairs think tank. “If he seriously means it was necessary to spend this amount of money to create a ski resort, however wonderful but one that needs snow trucked in, it is a complete waste of money.”
Erecting a winter sports arena in Sochi—a home to palm trees—is environmentally irresponsible to say the least; it’s causing heavy pollution of the nearby river as well as destruction of hillside vegetation. In December 2013, The Interpreter posted a translation of a report, “Winter Olympics in the Sub-Tropics: Corruption and Abuse in Sochi,” written by Nemtsov and Solidarity activist Leonid Martynyuk.
It states, “The Winter Olympics in Sochi is Putin’s personal project. He believed (and likely still believes to this day) that the Olympic Games will be his triumph, and that the participation of athletes from all over the world will be a recognition of his indisputable leadership, both in Russia and in the world.
“Subsequent events have demonstrated that the preparation for the Olympics has become a disgrace rather than a triumph. It has become increasingly clear that the Sochi Olympics are an unprecedented thieves’ caper in which representatives of Putin’s government are mixed up along with the oligarchs close to the government. This caper is not even comparable to Nikita Khrushchev’s reckless scheme to plant corn in the Russian Arctic, or the Communist plans to turn the course of the northern rivers.
“Essentially, the Olympics have exposed, in concentrated form, the main flaws of the system: abuse, corruption, petty tyranny, cronyism, non-professionalism, and irresponsibility.”
One report indicated that Putin overtly denied the costs of the Games, claiming that the country only spent $6.3 billion.
“The Games are nothing but a monstrous scam,” Newtsov, a Sochi native, told The Daily Telegraph.
The monstrous amount of spending involved in this year’s Olympics isn’t the only thing rattling the ears of the public. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) president, Thomas Bach, is warning athletes to stay away from making political protests during the events.
Bach stated that Olympic participants must refrain from any political acts during the Games or ceremonies, expressing that there could be repercussions for violators, according to the Voice of Russia.
Still, fear is swarming around the minds of spectators—some of whom have opted out of attending the event.
“The Olympics are built on the foundation of peace and freedom values, so this is kind of the perfect environment for terrorist groups” to demonstrate their opinions, cross-country skier Roberto Carcelen said on CNN’s “New Day.” His wife and daughter will not be attending the event because of safety fears.
A member of Homeland Security, Peter King, who is also the chairman of the Subcommittee in Counterterrorism and Intelligence and the Republican Representative of New York, expressed that safety is not a “100% guarantee.”
“These are going to be very much threatened Olympics—probably more than any we’ve had in our past,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.”