Friday, April 26, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Sochi Countdown -- 41 Weeks to the Olympiad in the North Caucasus

Note:  This is my 11th special Window on Eurasia about the meaning and impact of the planned Olympiad on the nations in the surrounding region.  These WOEs, which will appear each Friday over the coming year, will not aim at being comprehensive but rather will consist of a series bullet points about such developments.  I would like to invite anyone with special knowledge or information about this subject to send me references to the materials involved.  My email address is  Allow me to express my thanks to all those who already have. Paul Goble

Putin Understates Cost of Sochi Olympiad by 50 Billion US Dollars ... President Vladimir Putin tells the Russian people that their government spent only 3 billion US dollars on the Sochi Olympiad, some 50 billion less than Russian officials have acknowledged heretofore (

… And Says Corruption Won’t Affect Games. Putin says that reports about corruption and indeed all criticism of the games will not affect the games themselves and can be safely igoed because such “critical remarks” were “all expected” and involve “finance flows” rather than the bulders themselves (

Khloponin to Take Charge of Corruption-Riddled North Caucasus Resort Effort. Aleksandr Khloponin, the presidential plenipotentiary for the North Caucasus Federal District, is slated to take charge of the corruption-riddled North Caucasus resort construction program following Russian government charges against its former leadership (

French Scholar Says Sochi Shows Russia Becoming an Asiatic Despotism. Domique Moisi, a scholarat the Paris Institute for International Relations, says in an article picked up by Russian outlets that the Soch games, although designed to highlight “the new greatness” of Russia in fact show how far it has moved under Vladimir Putin toward becoming an Asiatic despotism (

Tatar Political Émigré Mirzyanov Urges US Athletes to Boycott Kazan Competition. In what many will see as a prelude to comments about Sochi, Vil Mirzyanov, a widely respected scholar who now lives as an émigré in the United States has called on Amerian athletes to boycott the Universiade Games in Kazan, Moscow newspapers report (

Latest Sochi Official Heads to Prison. Oleg Sheveyko became only the latest Sochi official to be sent to prison for official malfeasance.He will serve 20 months.  Earlier Elena Sokolinskaya was sentenced to nine years for violating environmental laws, and Igor Magdashyan ten months for accepting bribes. Another Sochi official, Aleksey Dvornitsky, is now facing trial for misappropriation of two million rubles (

Sochi Resident Says City Disappointed by Olympic Construction. Aleksey Glushenko says that he and his fellow Sochi residents were hopeful that the Olympics would help their city but have been bitterly disappointed: More money has been corruptly diverted than spent on facilities, the quality of what has been built is low, power outrages are a daily occurrence, facilities for local people have been closed “for reconstruction,” and the dust and chaos have become overwhelming (

Sochi Officials Still Trying to Get Rid of Homeless Animals. Sochi bureaucrats, having been stymied in their plans to poison homeless cats and dogs aver outrage across Russia and the world, have been holding meetings with various groups to try to shift blame to the latter for the animals. So far, most organizations have resisted these attempts ( and

Journalist Says Only Putin and the IOC Think Sochi is Appropriate Venue for Winter Games. Kevin Foley says that “besides Russian President Vladimir Putin, the only other people to see the area’s potential as a site for a spectacular winter sports competition were the voting mebmers of the International Olympic Committee.” Both overlooked the sites “palm trees and temperate climate” and its lack of facilities.  After visiting the site, he added, “my untrained eye tells me tehse guys are way behind schedule even though they’ve had more than five years to prepare” (

Moscow Security Analyst Says Sochi is Like Beirut as a Venue for Games.  Yegor Engelgard, an independent Moscow security analyst, told Reuters that holding the competition in Sochi with regard to security is “almost like having the Olympics in Beirut” And another analyst says that after Boston, “the Sochi Games will now be unsafe for Americans” (

Moscow Steps Up Anti-Circassian Propaganda Effort. Because of Circssians opposition to holding the games at the site of their 1864 expulsion from the North Caucasus, Moscow has stepped up its anti-Circassian propaganda on all fronts over the last several weeks (, and

Moscow Analyst Says Boston Shows Sochi Prime Target for Terrorists.  Aleksandr Konovalov, head of Moscow’s Institute for Strategic Assessments, says that “the Olympics would make a highly desirable goal for terrorists, offering the maximum publicity” for minimum effort (

Analyst Says Sochi Effort Shows What’s Wrong with Putin’s Russia.  According to Yuri Tkachenko, everything that has gone wrong in Sochi shows what’s wrong with the system Vladimir Putin has imposed on Russia as a whole – corruption, incompetence, bold promises and little follow through (

Sochi Residents Tell Mayor and His Staff to “Go Home” and Leave Them in Peace.  Fed up with the arrogance and incompetence of Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov who regularly claims that he has overwhelming popular support, increasing numbers of Sochi residents have adopted as their slogan “Go home, Pakhomov,” a reference to the fact that he and most others in his administration were parachuted into the region by Moscow from somewhere else and do not reflect local interests and concerns ( and

Moscow Prepares Olympians in Special Military Unit. Much like their Soviet predecessors, the Russian authorities have created a special military unit to train competitors for the Sochi Olympics. The swearing in of these special soldiers has been scheduled to take place in Moscow on May 19 (

Weather Could Doom Some Sochi Competitions.  If the weather next year is normal, it will be difficult to hold many of the competitions around Sochi that require snow outside, even with the stockpiling of frozen snow from this year, but if the weather is even slightly warmer than usual, many of them will become simply impossible, observers say (

Sochi Residents Wonder Why Russian Athletes Now Do So Much Worse than Soviet Ones. According to one writer, many people in Sochi wonder why competitors for the Russian Federation do so much worse on average than did those for the USSR, reflecting that it may be a lack of enthusiasm for the new rulers and widespread corruption which affects some commands (

Moscow Working Hard to Block Sponsors from Withdrawing from Sochi.  Few global companies have signed on as sponsors for the Sochi games, but those which have already have longterm agreements with the Russian government on other things and are under pressure not to back away from Sochi, according to marketing experts. One of them added that Moscow may keep them from dropping the competition from their advertising budget but will be unlikely to attract many others: “I don’t believe Rusia is a key market that many people are desperate to crack,” he told “Businessweek”(

Sochi Games Not only Most Expensive But Most Cynical in Olympic History. Georgy Znamensky says that “the Winter Olympiad of 2014 will go into history not only as the most expensive – I would even cll it platinum-iridium considering the fabulous sums that have gone for its preparation – but also the most cynical” given what it shows about the attitude of Russia’s rulers to the peoples of Russia (

Boston Killings Show ‘New General of Terrorists’ Will Target Sports Events. In what has to be a major concern for the Russian government, two Moscow writers say, what happened in Boston “shows that a new generation of terrorists ‘has returned’ to sports competitions” and could easily target high-profile events like the Sochi games (

Nart Sagas May Be Included in Sochi Propaganda Effort. One analyst has suggested that Moscow use the Nart sagas of the North Caucasus at Sochi to show its support of the peoples of that region, an indication of just how far Moscow is not prepared to go to mollify people there (

Moscow ‘Relatively Nervous’ About Sochi Security, IOC Official Says.  Russian officials are “relatively nervous” about Olympic security given problems in nearby areas, Gianfranco Kasper, a member of the IOC’s coordination commission. “We always know how tight the security is in Russia now,” and it will only increase after Boston ( ).

Sochi Residents Fed Up with Power Outages and Rising Prices.  The approach of the Olympics has brought with it multiple power outrages every day and dramatically higher prices for city services, leaving residents angry, at risk and often without necessary access to those services (

Olympics have Left Sochi as “A City without a Future,” Residents Fear. To prepare for the competitions, Russian officials have destroyed the integrity of Sochi as a city and thus left it as “a city without a future,” according to Yevgeny Kirichenko (,  and

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