News / Europe

Russia's Putin Sacks Olympic Official Over Delays

Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, visits the main press center at a coastal Olympic cluster in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Feb. 7, 2013.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, visits the main press center at a coastal Olympic cluster in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Feb. 7, 2013.
VOA News
Vladimir Putin fired a top Russian Olympic official on Thursday after publicly ridiculing him on a visit to half-finished sports complexes planned for a winter Olympics dogged by reports of corruption and construction delays.
 
The humiliation of Akhmed Bilalov, 42, stamped President Putin's authority over the 2014 Sochi Games and underlined the importance he attaches to a global event he hopes will show how far Russia has come since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.
 
In a vintage performance, reminiscent of an all-powerful tsar sweeping through town in imperial times, Putin became angry when he heard of the rising costs and construction delays at the ski-jump complex Bilalov has been involved in.
 
Unsmiling and sarcastic, Putin unceremoniously scolded Bilalov in front of television cameras at the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Wednesday, then sacked him as vice president of Russia's Olympic Committee.
 
"How is it possible that the vice-president of the Olympic Committee is delaying development?" Putin asked after touring Sochi, which has become a huge construction site with the concrete carcasses of unfinished buildings hugging the skyline.
 
With Bilalov squirming in the background, he added: "Well done. You are really working well."
 
Bilalov's dismissal overshadowed a day of festivities as Russia unveiled huge diamond-shaped clocks in Moscow, Sochi and six other cities counting the days, hours, minutes and seconds to the opening of the Games a year from now.
 
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak made clear Bilalov was also likely to lose his job on the board of the Resorts of the North Caucasus, a state firm created to develop luxury resorts.
 
"People who do not fulfill their obligations on such a scale cannot lead the Olympic movement in our country," Kozak told reporters in Sochi, a popular tourist destination for Russians in summer and winter.
 
Festivities overshadowed

In Sochi, the din of the heavy trucks and diggers did not stop as the day's countdown festivities began. Large areas are fenced off in the city center and many of the roads are closed.
 
The ski resort of Krasnaya Polyana, which looks down on Sochi, is still a muddle of fences, cranes, trucks and unfinished buildings. There is little snow but plenty of mud.
 
Putin had warned officials on Wednesday not to let corruption push up the costs of the Games, already expected to reach $50 billion, or five times more than the initial price tag. This would make them the costliest Games so far.
 
The Olympics are a priority for Putin in his third term as president, a chance to show Russia is a modern democracy capable of organizing global events, 13 years after he rose to power.
 
"The main thing is that no one steals anything, so there are no unexplained increases in costs," he said on Wednesday as he went rapidly from one venue to another.
 
Russia has been trying to shed its reputation for corruption, which has long put off foreign investors. But fears of foul play prompted then-President Dmitry Medvedev to order an investigation in 2010 into a senior Kremlin official accused of extorting bribes over Games construction work.
 
The price of building one less than 50-km (31-mile) stretch of road for the Games has been estimated at $7.5 billion, a figure so high that it fuelled more corruption allegations.
 
 
Security threat
 
There is also a security threat from an Islamist insurgency raging nearby, concerns about environmental damage, allegations that some workers have been underpaid and residents are grumbling about the state of the city.
 
"It's good they are building new roads here, but the benefits of all of that will not be felt soon and people are getting upset," said Vladimir, a taxi driver in his mid-30s.
 
Approaching a new roundabout, he said: "This roundabout is a good example of how things work here. It's broad and smooth but it's surrounded by narrow roads, so there's no real point in it. There's traffic jams all around it anyway."
 
Thirteen official sites are being built, including a stadium that can house 40,000 people, plus facilities for ice hockey, skiing, snowboarding and skating. About 120,000 visitors are expected during the Games.
 
But beneath the slopes, Sochi has palm trees and a sub-tropical climate. The temperature on Thursday was around 13 degrees Celsius (55 Fahrenheit). Some Russians wonder why and how a Winter Olympics can be hosted by such a warm city.
 
The rising costs have also brought grumbles from wealthy Russian businessmen who have invested in the Games and want the government to provide more help with the funding.
 
At least half the money for the Games is coming from the state and private Russian businessmen or state-controlled companies are making up the rest, Russian Olympic officials say.

You May Like

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

US Urges Taliban to Stay With Afghan Peace Talks

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs