Friday, July 19, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Sochi Countdown -- 29 Weeks to the Olympiad in the North Caucasus

Note:  This is my 21st 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 knowlege 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

US Senator Says US Should Boycott Sochi over Snowden Case. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) says that US should consider boycotting the Sochi Olympiad if Moscow gives political aylum to leader Edward Snowden.”I love the Olympics,but I had what the Russian government isdoing throughout the world,” he says, asking rhetorically, “if you could go bck in im would you have allowed Adolf Hitler to host the Olympics in Germany?” ( and

Snowden Dismisses Graham as ‘Degenerate.’ Edward Snowden said from Moscow that Senator Graham’s proposal was ridiculous and that the senator was the kind of “degenerate” that one doesn’t encounter in the Russian capital (

US House Speaker Boehner Says Graham ‘Dead Wrong’ about Sochi Boycott.  John Bohener said that Senator Lindsay Graham was “dead wrong” in proposing that the US boycott the Sochi Games over the Snowden case. “Why would we want to punish US athletes who have been training for three years to compete in the Olympics over a traitor who can’t fina place to call home?” (,

US Olympic Committee Says Boycotting Sochi Would Not Benefit the US.  Patrick Sandusky, a representative of the US National Olympic Committeesays that any boycott of the Sochi Olympics would not benefit the United States or work as intended, as he suggested the US-led boycott of the Moscow Game showed (

White House Says Boycotting Sochi ‘a Bad Idea.’ Jay Carney, a White House spokesman, says that any boycott of the Sochi Olympiad would be “a bad idea.” He added that Washington is continuing to talk with Moscow over the return of leaker Edward Snowden (

Sochi Boycott Would Be ‘Blow Beneath the Belt,’ Russian Commentator Says.  Aleksandr Zhelenin, a commentator for, says that any boycott of Sochi would be “a blow beneath the belt “because the Olympic gamesfor Putin are more than simply a sportiving event. They are about the prestige of the country and its status as he understands it.” Indeed, Zhelenin sys, “for Vladimir Putin, the Olympiad in Sochi is exactly what the Moscow Olympiad in 1980 was for the Brezhnev Politburo.”  Moreover, he continued, the 1980 boycott showed that no such effort will be effective (

Nemtsov Calls for Boycotting 2014 Football Championship in Belarus.  “Western sportsmen and diplomats should not go to Minsk until [Belarusian leader] Alyaksandr Lukashenka releases all political prisoners,” according to Russian opposition figure Boris Nemtsov who earlier called for a boycott of the Sochi Games and now says that Russian President Vladimir Putin is “a true student of Lukashenka” who “is copying in Russia all the methods of the Belarusian authoritarian ruler” (

Sochi Officials Announce Fines for Putting Laundry on Balconies and ‘Asymmetric’ Airconditioners … In an effort to spruce up their city before the Olympics, Sochi officials have announced fines for anyone who hands laundry on the balconies of their apartments or for residents of buildings where the air conditions are installed haphazardly rather than in a balanced pattern (  

… But Photoshop Picture of City Hall to Hide Its ‘Asymmetric’ Airconditioners. After issuing their order to city residents, officials in the Sochi administration used photoshop technology to hide the fact the city hall has some of the most “asymmetric” airconditioiners of any building in the area. Residents joke that apparently the mayor plans to photoshop out of existence all the other problems they face as well (

Sochi Residents Demonstrate Against Illegal Building After City Ignores Complaints. Residents of the Khosti district of Sochi staged a public protest to demand that a building exceeding height requirements be torn down. They took this step after Sochi Mayo Anatoly Pakhomov repeatedly ignored their appeals ( and

Cossacks Not Circassians to Be Featured at Sochi Olympics.  Sochi organizers say that the Kuban Cossack Choir will sing at the opening and closing ceremonies of the Sochi Games; they have made no announcement about any role for Circassians groups who have pressed for representation under IOC rules ( Russian commentators continue to discuss whether the Circassians and their campaign represent “a threat” to the Sochi competition in any way ( and Moscow’s failure to include Circassian symbols is especially hurtful now given that the Russian government is reportedly considering making a Komi moose the symbol of upcoming football championships (

Circassians Hold Joint Meeting in Maykop, Plan for One in Istanbul.  North Caucasus Circassians, many of whom object to the holding of the Olympiad where their ancestors were subjected to a genocide, held a coordination meeting in Mayko and have called for an international session in Turkey in October (

Despite Moscow’s Promises, History Suggests Sochi Site Will Be Abandoned. Russian officials have insisted that facilities being built for the Sochi Games will be heavily used after the competition, a claim that they use to suggest that the Olympiad itself is not costing as much as many say. But an examination of past Olympics suggests that their claims are likely overblown: “The infamous Nazi Olympic Village remains abandoned 77 years later,, but what is even more startling,” the Huffington Post noted, “is the fact htat the venues from the 2004 Olympics in Athens and 2008 in Beijing are just as haunting” (

Moscow’s Push on Kazan and Sochi Making Country a Laughingstock, Russian Says. In an article on, Dmitry Zotikov says the way in which the Russian government has organized the competitions in Kazan – using professionals against amateurs from other countries – and in Sochi where it is to host a winter Olympics in the subtropics is making the country a laughingstock not only among Russians but around the world. “Earlier people feared and respected Russia. But now they laugh about it,” he observed (

‘Economist’ Compares Sochi Gigantomania to Khrushchev’s Corn Campaign. Britain’s “Economist” magazine says that Vladimir Putin’s campaign to host a winter Olympics in the subtropics recalls Soviet river reversal schemes, building cities in the inhospitable north, and Nikita Khrushchev’s efforts to plan corn in lattitudes where it would not grow ( and

Russian Senator Wants to Ban Foreigners from Working in or Profiting from Sochi Games. Kuran Senator Sergey Lisovsky has prepared a draft law that would prevent any foreigner from working on the Sochi Olympic facilities or profiting from such construction or the games themselves, a measure that is unlikely to pass – if it did, construction would not be finished in time and many foreign companies would have to pull out leading to disorder – but that reflects the growing nationalism of Russian politicians ( and

After Sochi, Moscow Won’t Have Money for North Caucasus, Turkish Writer Says. A commentator in “Today’s Zaman” says that the Russian government is spending so much money on the Sochi Games and especially on security that “official Moscow will not be able to invest the same kind of money in the region. Moscow will face a dilemma: if they cannot continue to provide financial support to the local elites – buying their loyalty … -- the Salafi movement will win the hearts and minds of the local population” (
Discussion of Border Changes in North Caucasus Continues Unabated. While there is near universal agreement that Moscow won’t change the borders in the North Caucasus until after the Olympics lest such a step further destabilize the area, that has not stopped speculation on just what those changes might look like, speculation that by itself is exacerbating the situation ( In Stavropol, for example, suggestions about border changes are generating “hysteria,” one commentator says (

Sochi Boosting Biometric Business in Russia.  Moscow’s efforts to secure the Winter Olympics in Sochi and other sports competitions is driving up the Russian biometrics market, according to a new study with investments in that sector of nearly 400 million US dollars expected over the next five years there (

Widespead Corruption in Russian Police at Sochi Seen Helping Islamist Groups.  Continuing corruption scandals involving Russian police in Sochi are being used by Islamist groups to attract new recruits, local experts say.  As a result, one part of Russia’s force structures by their behavior is undercutting the work of other parts which say their chief targets are radical Islamist militants in the areas around the Olympic site (

Georgians Cooperate on Sochi to Avoid Russian Charges They’re Behind Any Terrorist Plot.  Zurab Abashidze, Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili says that Georgia is taking part in the Sochi Games lest Moscow accuse it of “creating problems” should any occur ( Thomas de Waal, a Carnegie expert on the region, concurs (

 Sochi Residents Draft Declaration ‘Against Illegality and Arbitrariness’ by Officials.  Fed up with official malfeasance and unkept promises, residents of Sochi have drafted a declaration calling for an end to illegal actions and arbitrary behavior and urging a broad official inquiry by Moscow into what is taking place  They plan to hold a meeting on August 3 to press their agenda ( Many Sochi residents are fed up with water and power cutoffs, the destruction of streets, and blocked access to their beaches and no longer trust the government to solve these problems (,,,

Sochi Mayor Says Olympic Construction has Created ‘New Ecological Situation’ and ‘New Energy Situation.’  Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov says that construction for the Sochi games has created “a new ecological situation” and “a new energy situation,” something with which his fiercest critics completely agree (,, and

Students Brought to Sochi to Help with Construction Poorly Housed and Fed. A video is circulating showing that students from around the Russian Federation who have been brought to the Olympic city to work on construction projects are being housed in poorly constructed barracks and otherwise mistreated by their employers (

Russian Anger at Sochi Spending Rises as Economic Crisis Bites. Sociologists say that Russian anger at the massive spending on the Sochi Olympics is increasing as the economic crisis bites and poverty rises and that if conditions continue to deteriorate, this anger is likely to spill over into demonstrations and protests (   and

Gay Athlete Pledges to Go to Sochi Come What May.  Blake Skjellerup, a New Zealand speed skater, says he will wear a rainbow pin at the Sochi Games to symbolize the rights of all homosexuals like himself to compete. “If it gets me in trouble” with Russian officials whose government recently adopted an anti-gay law, he says, “then I guess so be it” (

Orthodox Activist Sparks Controversy by Denouncing Olympic Festivities as Pagan. Deacon Andrey Kurayev, a frequent Russian Orthodox commentator, has sparked controversy by complaining that the opening festivities of the Olympic Games are a pagan worship service, something even his usual Russian nationalist allies find appalling and absurd ( and

Islamist Radicals Carry Out ‘Information Jihad’ at Kazan.  Russian experts say that Islamists did not launch any terrorist attacks during the Kazan Universiade but instead chose to conduct what they call “an information jihad,” passing out information about their goals and calling for contributions to support those fighting the Asad government in Syria.  They also made the point, the Russian officials said, that the athletic competition was taking place “on the blood of the Tatar people” (

Kazan Mayor Says Residents Will Be Asked about Olympic Bid.  Kazan Mayor Ilsur Metshin says that any effort by his city to pursue a 2024 Olympic bid will require the backing of Kazan residents ( As a recent negative vote in Switzerland shows, local people often oppose holding such disruptive events  ( Sochi residents were never asked whether they wanted the games or not (

Kazan Games Were ‘Boring,’ Fan Says.  Moscow’s decision to use professionals in order to ensure victory over amateurs from other countries ensured that the Kazan Universiade was “boring,” something which not only leads to the death of sports but a complete loss of attention to such competitions ( and

Kazan Universiad Suffered from Seven Deadly Shortcomings, Moscow Site Says.  The just-completed Kazan games, treated by all as a test for the Sochi Olympics, was a disaster in seven ways, according to  It failed to attract the world’s attention, its medals were so poorly made that they broke, it featured sports no one had ever heard of, it involved Soviet-style “forced volunteerism,” it disrupted the life of the city, it featured empty seats despite claims that all tickets had been sold, and it cost far too much, although no one yet knows just how much (

Officials Don’t Mention Tragic Anniversary but Kazan Residents Remember.  Exactly two years before the Kazan University Games, a passenger ship sank near Kazan killing 122 people including 28 children. Officials went out of their way to ignore that anniversary, but residents of the Tatarstan capital recalled it, according to Ruslan Aysin, a local political scientist. That experience shows how difficult it is to paper over a past tragedy however hard officials may try (  

Kazan Games Didn’t Promote Patriotism But Undercut It, Moscow Paper Says. “Moskovsky komsomolets” says that the Russian government’s hope that the Kazan University Games would generate a new wave of patriotism was dashed. In fact, the games had just the opposite effect, increasing cynicism about a government that seems out of touch and prepared to spend money on useless projects when popular needs are not being met (

Putin Now Wants to Hold 2019 Universiade in Krasnoyarsk, One of the Most Polluted Cities on Earth.  The Kazan Universiade just completed and “the Winter Olympics in the Subtropics” still ahead, Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for holding the 2019 University Games in Krasnoyarsk, a city with some of the worst air and water pollution in the world, apparently as another occasion for massive spending on the total transformation of a venue that is anything but ready for such a competition (

Russian Economist Appalled by Spending on Sochi.  Sergey Zhavoronkov, a senior economist at the Moscow Institute of Economic Policy, says he is appalled by what he calls “the insane spending” on public relations projects like the Asia Pacific summit in Vladivostok and the Sochi games, projects that will bring few real returns and are especially unsupportable during periods of economic hardship (

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