News / Europe

Sochi Olympics: Putin’s Legacy or Liability?

Sochi Olympics: Putin’s Legacy Or Liabilityi
X
February 04, 2014 3:09 PM
Once the world’s largest construction site, the Sochi Winter Olympics were designed to be President Vladimir Putin's crowning moment. But they could become a liability to Russia’s long running ruler. James Brooke reports from Sochi.
James Brooke
When the Sochi Olympics open on Friday, they will be the most expensive Olympics games in history.
 
The $50 billion cost is four times Putin's original estimate back in 2007, when Russia was awarded the games.
 
Elena Panfilova, executive director of Transparency International Russia, said corruption and overspending are souring many Russians on the Olympics.
 
“Corruption got out of hand,” said Panfilova, whose group has studied the construction tenders.
 
“Even those who should not be taking money, should not be stealing, should not be overpricing, especially social services. Even those who were told to stop certain practices, they kept going. And in this situation, it is difficult to feel the mood of the Olympics,” she said.
 
Winter Olympics Torch pathWinter Olympics Torch path
x
Winter Olympics Torch path
Winter Olympics Torch path
Last month, Gian-Franco Kasper, a Swiss member of the International Olympic Committee, estimated that Russian authorities and friends of the government had embezzled about one-third of the $50 billion spent on the Olympics. Last week, Alexei Navalny, a Russian opposition leader, issued a report saying that a series of ‘no compete’ construction contracts issued to friends of President Putin allowed them to siphon off $15 billion in state funds.
 
Pressured by allegations about corruption, President Putin told foreign reporters on January 19 that no proof exists and that “no one has provided us with such information so far.”
 
"It was not supposed to be like this," said Mark Galeotti, a Russia analyst and professor of global affairs at New York University.
 
“When Russia made its bid for the Sochi Olympics, everything was going Putin's way,” Galeotti recalled in an interview in Moscow.
 
“The economy was buoyant, politically, he was unassailable and therefore Sochi was going to be a grand coming-up party for the new Russia. It was to show the world Russia was rich enough to spend the money on such an event, efficient and well-organized enough,” said Galeotti.
 
However, economic growth dropped to 1.3 percent last year, a fraction of the five percent Putin promised when he ran for reelection two years ago. Now, half of Russians tell the Levada polling company they do not want him to run for re-election.
 
Criticized as authoritarian, President Putin freed jailed political rival Mikhail Khodorkovsky in December.
 
After spending 10 years in jail, Khodorkovsky immediately talked to reporters about Putin’s political future.
 
"Our law allows President Putin to remain in power, of course if people vote for him, for the next 10 years,” he said in Berlin. “He was recently asked, and I read about it, whether he believes he should be president for life. He clearly answered 'no'. I hope he will not change his point of view,” said Khodorkovsky.
 
Khodorkovsky’s release did not change Western views of Putin. Foreign ticket sales for the Olympics have been slow, as would-be buyers cite security worries, high travel costs, and Russia’s anti-gay laws.
 
Last week, leaders of the European Union cut a two-day meeting with Putin down to three hours. The leaders of the United States, France and Britain will not fly to Sochi for the Olympics.
 
However, with an extravagant Olympic opening ceremony planned, President Putin hopes the negatives will be forgotten when the fireworks start on Friday night.

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