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Sochi: Putin's $51Bln Game of Russian Roulette

Published: January 30, 2014 (Issue # 1795)



  • President Vladimir Putin with Sochi volunteers earlier this month.
    Photo: sochi2014.com

MOSCOW (AP) — For Vladimir Putin, the Winter Olympics he brought to Sochi have always been about far more than sports.

The benefits the Russian president expects from holding the games range from improving Russia's international standing and instilling a sense of national pride to turning around the country's demographic decline. And of course Putin wants to be seen, at home and abroad, as the man who made this all possible.

That's a tall order for an international sports event.

And what if terrorists strike the Olympics, which are taking place Feb. 7-23 just a few hundred miles (kilometers) west of a region where Islamic insurgents carry out bombings and other attacks almost daily? Or if a winter storm rips through the Black Sea resort, knocking out its hastily finished electric grid? Or even if Russian athletes in Sochi repeat their dismal performance of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games?

Related: A Crumbling Sochi Hides Behind Olympic Facades

If — for one reason or another — Sochi is deemed to be a disaster, the $51 billion spent on Putin's games may suddenly seem like a colossal waste of money. That amount dwarfs the spending of any other Olympics, winter or summer.

"Has Putin over-invested in these games?" Stephen Sestanovich, a Columbia University professor and Russia scholar, asked rhetorically. "Almost surely. And I think the disproportion of the investment will be clearer if the Russians don't bring home a trove of gold medals and if the security situation goes badly."

Putin has made the 2014 Winter Games his personal project from the very beginning, directing an ambitious undertaking to transform Sochi, a once-tacky Soviet-era summer resort, into a world-class winter sports center.

Related: Navalny Publishes Sochi Corruption Report

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Monday, Apr. 21


Improve your grasp of Neruda, Bolano and Marquez at TrueDA’s Beginners Spanish Lesson this evening at their location on the Petrograd Side. An experienced teacher will be on hand to help all attendees better understand the intricacies of the language and improve their accent.


Tuesday, Apr. 22


SPIBA’s Breakfast with the Director event series continues as the association welcomes Andrei Barannikov, general director of SPN Communications, to the Anna Pavlova Hall of the Angleterre Hotel this morning at 9 a.m. Attendees must confirm their participation by Apr. 21.


The AmCham Environment, Health and Safety Committee Meeting is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. this morning in the their St. Petersburg office.