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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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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the club’s website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit “Neophobia” at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBA’s Marketing and Communications Committee’s round table discussion on “Government Relations Practices in Russia” this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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