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

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee 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.
To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violencei
X
Lenny Ruvaga
November 27, 2014 7:05 PM
The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid