It’s only a few days to go until Sochi hosts the Winter Olympics and Russia is gearing up for the whole world to take part and watch the sporting extravaganza in their country. But are these Winter Olympics hiding a dirty secret? After reading John Sweeney’s article in yesterday’s Independent and watching his Panorama on BBC One, it seems Vladimir Putin and his government have invested billions into Sochi which has raised more and more problems as the construction and preparation of the games nears an end.
These will be the most expensive Winter Games ever with Sochi’s budget being around a total of £12 billion. The games are being staged in two parts of Sochi; up in the mountains and in a tropical area near the black sea. Stadiums have been constructed and a new ski jump built although due to landslides the jump wasn’t finished for an extra two years. The hotels for the competitors and fans have also needed to have been built but none of that compares to what Putin has invested in most for these games. A train which links Sochi to the mountains has cost a region of around £8 billion; an outrageous sum of money. So why has Putin invested so heavily in the Winter Olympics? Well the answer to that is simple. He wants it to be memorable. It certainly is that, but that’s not going to be just because of the inevitable sporting triumphs that will occur in the next few weeks. It’s because of the huge budget and economics of the games alongside other key factors.
Socially, these games have caused worry, anxiety and unease with a majority. The Mayor of Sochi has declared along with President Putin that all are welcome to the games including Journalists and homophobic supporters/competitors. But if you watched the panorama last night, you would have seen Sweeney being stopped from visiting the local village by the police and refused access to the village due to the fact they felt the paperwork portrayed to them was not enough evidence to let the BBC through. The Mayor also believes no gay people live in Sochi although there must be a good few Gay Bar’s around the city; again Sweeney visited one of these in the Panorama. Gays and lesbians travelling to Sochi are worried about how they are going to be treated in Russia as many gay rights campaigners have been arrested by Police.
Furthermore, the people of Sochi feel cheated by the Russian overlords. Construction workers haven’t been paid for the building of the stadiums, power cuts have caused problems for families and others and also the local villagers who eventually spoke to Sweeney told him that they are suffering because of the landslides that have ruined their homes, the government refuse to help these people until after the games.
What comes into your head when I say ‘Moon Glade’? I would have said secret operation or something. This is actually a so called ‘country home’ for the President in the mountains which he adores. It has led to other leaders proposing to build their own homes up there which has raised opposition from locals. It would suck out the power from cities in order to enable electricity to run up in the mountains leaving many in candlelight.
Conspiracy is something that comes up a lot when people discuss Russia. There have been a good few cases leading up to the games. One Russian journalist seemed to have been framed to have had cocaine in his car by the Police to stop him investigating against them. Also, apparently some of the money from the Sochi preparations has somehow vanished. Putin? Maybe. But we won’t find out until Putin eventually leaves office.
All these problems have had people worry for what will happen when the Olympic circus leaves town and the people of Sochi are left with a train to the mountains and stadiums which take up most of the power in the city to operate? It doesn’t look like a pretty picture to me.
Also it is only four years until Russia hosts another leading sports competition in the World Cup. How will that differ from the Winter Games? Russian journalists claim it won’t change- the same processes that have occurred in the lead up to next week’s games will be seen in 2018, making it a bleak future for the Russian community, although the world cup will occur in 11 cities rather than just the one this time.
Don’t take this as if I’m not looking forward to the games. I for one cannot wait. I love the bobsleigh, the downhill skiing and the skeleton run. Many will enjoy watching the worlds finest go for gold but this will act as a distraction to the goings on behind the scenes in what have perhaps been the most controversial build up and preparation to a Winter Games in history.
Catch John Sweeney’s BBC Panorama ‘Putin’s Games’ on iPlayer now, it’s an interesting watch and it opens our eyes onto the real power that Vladimir Putin possesses.