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

Analyst: Joint-Arab Military Force Poses Perilous Challenge

Although international forces are desperately needed to counter the threat of the Islamic State group, analysts say conflicting alliances could escalate fighting More

Asia’s Middle Class Changes Demand for Wheat Grain Exporters

Changes in tastes and diets are boon for wheat exporters such as Australia and the United States More

S. African Comedian Taking Over Popular TV Show

Mixed-race comedian Trevor Noah, who is loved for his edgy jibes about race and language, is taking the helm from Jon Stewart at The Daily Show in US 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.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More