While London is working hard to live up to their –once promised– Olympic legacy, and IOC chief Jacques Rogge is debating whether the London Games were the best ever or just totally awesome, Putin is building his own Olympic dream in the Russian city of Sochi.
Sochi is a -by Stalin established- resort city along the Black Sea which grew rapidly during Valdimir Putin’s term in office. Although temperatures rarely dip below 12C, the city was selected to host the 2014 Winter Olympics. For Putin, an opportunity to showcase Russia’s ability to organize major events and boost its international image, but only few in Sochi are feeling the Olympic glow.
The games are already officially the most expensive Olympics ever. Non of the sports facilities were present in the area, so everything had to be constructed from scratch. There was no ski resort, no ski jump, no bobsled track, no skating rink and no railway or sizeable road joining the beachside Olympic Park, which will host the skating events, to the mountain areas, that will host the skiing and sliding events. The estimated 37bn euros budget is more than the Beijing Olympics, three times the London summer Olympics, and 25 times the last Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
To clear the land for construction of the stadiums and the around 400 highrises -hotels and blocks of flats- which are currently under construction, houses have been pulled down and thousands of people were resettled. Human Rights Watch, has already advised the International Olympic Committee to intervene, because of illegal evictions and the migrant workers who are being employed in the Olympics building boom were being cheated out of wages and denied adequate rest, food and housing.
Stories of corruption involving construction of the Olympic venues and protests by citizens are arising. Also pressure on the media has increased with local authorities calling editors about which stories can and cannot be written, and this is just the beginning. The Olympic charter explicitly prohibits activism, stating: “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”