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

    Candidates' Comments Fly Like New Hampshire Snowflakes

    Four days ahead of the country's first-in-the-nation Republican and Democratic party primary elections, surveys show the parties' contests tightening

    Australian Commander: IS Changing Tactics

    Head of Australian forces in Middle East talks with VOA about training Iraqi troops, countering evolving Islamic State efforts and defeating extremism

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    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.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.