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

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs