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.
TEXT SIZE - +
— 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.

James Brooke

A foreign correspondent who has reported from five continents, Brooke, known universally as Jim, is the Voice of America bureau chief for Russia and former Soviet Union countries. From his base in Moscow, Jim roams Russia and Russia’s southern neighbors.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid