Friday, July 12, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Sochi Countdown -- 30 Weeks to the Olympiad in the North Caucasus

Note:  This is my 20th 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

Sochi Resembles ‘Communist-Era Construction Project,’ Economist Says. Construction for the Sochi Olympic Games recalls Soviet construction efforts with their enormous cost overruns ,poor quality work, and the abuse of workers, the Economist says. It quotes AllisonSteward of the SAID Business School in Oxford as having concluded that cost overruns in Sochi are running at 500 percent, almost three times the rate of previous Olympiads with most of the excess being drained off by corruption. Moreover, what has been built is of poor quality: The weekly notes that the ski jump alone has had to be rebuilt “many times” because it was not constructed properly in the first place. And again as in Soviet times but in some respects even worse, the workers in Sochi are poorly paid, overworked, and with few normal labor protections (

Sochi Mayor and His Wife ‘Officially Now Twice as Rich as the Putins.’  Following declarations by Mayor Antaoly Pakhomov about his own income and that of his wife, Sochi residents have concluded that the Pakhomovs are “officially” twice as rich as the Putins, but they of course recognize that Pakhomov probably declared more of his wealth than the Russian president ever has. Nevertheless, the Pakhomovs have done well, and the people of his city clearly believe that they have profited corruptly from the Olympiad construction effort. One reason for their suspicions on that point is that the city has declared at various points that Sochi officials deserve high incomes because of the importance of their work. In the words of one Sochi blogger, they clearly believe that there should be Olympic-size paychecks for Olympic city officials (

Circassian Activist Calls for Alternative Nart Olympiad.  Because Moscow is holding an Olympics on the site of the genocide of the Circassians in 1864, the Circassians should organiean alternative Nart Olympics to attract athletes of the world to a competition that would highlight rather than obscure the crimes Russian officials have committed in the North Caucasus (

Yet Another Sochi Official Charged with Corruption.  As has been the case almost every week for the last three months, another Sochi city official has been charged with corruption apparently because he took money from wealthy private interests to approve illegal construction projects. Despite these arrests, which the local media have played up, the situation does not seem to have improved. Indeed, in some cases, those who replaced officials arrested earlier are now being charged with similar crimes (

Underground Infrastructure in Sochi Seriously Compromised by Soil and Water Problems.  To support Olympic construction, builders have had to install an enormous network of water, sewage and electrical lines below ground, but ground water and unsteady soil conditions have compromised much of this work leading to regular breakdowns which often require tearing up large parts of the city in order to fix (

European Visitors Shocked by Open Sewage Lines in Sochi.  A group of Italians visiting Sochi to see that country’s business center office there were “shocked” by the open sewer lines and the resulting smell in front of that building. Such open sewers exist in various parts of the city, the result of both overly-rapid excavation of streets for Olympic construction and shoddy building practices (

Water Disruptions in Sochi Seen Contributing to Spread of Disease. Sochi residents have been accustomed to daily power cutoffs, but now they face another problem: many of them are not getting running water on a regular basis, something that many of them fear will not only make life unpleasant in that subtropical city during the warmest months but lead to the spread of meningitis and other diseases because of the difficulties of maintaining sanitation with inadequate water supplies ( and ).

Sochi Promises to Build ‘Ethnographic Complex.’ City officials say they will build an ethnographic complex in Krasnaya Polyana to highlight the diversity of the peoples of Russia, an apparent concession to Olympic rules requiring attention to local cultures and Circassian demands that the Olympics make reference during the competition to the tragic history of that nation.  So far, however, officials have given no details on what this complex will look like, who will pay for it, and consequently whether it will in fact ever be built (

Russian Ice Hockey Team Priced Out of Sochi Arena, Must Practice Elsewhere.  The Russian ice hockey team cannot afford the high prices operators of the Sochi arena have set and will practice elsewhere, possibly in Europe.  Prices are so high at least in part because of the costs of providing ice in that subtropical city (, and

Sochi Port to Become Yacht Basin. In yet another indication that the reconstruction of Sochi is not intended to benefit all Russians but rather only the very rich, oligarch Oleg Deripaska has announced that he will be transforming part of the Sochi port into a yacht basin with docks for 600 to 700 ships (

Medals Break at Kazan Universiade; Officials Promise Replacements,No Problems at Sochi. More than 3,000 medals awarded at the Kazan World University Games have been recalle after two of them shattered when they were accidentally dropped. Russian officials announced that a different firm will be making the medals for the Sochi Olympiad (

Kazan Universiade Recruits Former Spy Anna Chapman to be VIP Guide.  Anna Chapman, former Russian spy and more recently notorious for her offer to marry US leaker Edward Snowden, has been recruited by the organizers of the Kazan Universiade to serve as a special “VIP guide” at the competition (

Ramadan Rules Restrict Muslim Athletes at Kazan Universiade.  Muslims taking part in the Kazan competitions face a double challenge – the month of Ramadan means they are not supposed to eat during daylight hours, and Kazan’s northern location means that it is light almost 18 hours a day.  Some are simply violating the Muslim holiday’s rules, saying they will follow them after the competition, but many will not do that and say that as a result, they have not been able to give their best efforts (

Human Rights Violations Widespread in Kazan During Universiade, Tatars Say.  Russian officials have violated the rights of residents and visitors during the Universiade in the name of security. They have singled out Muslims for particular attention, the Tatar Center says ( ).

Algerian Soccer Team Refuses to Fly to Kazan.  Apparently out of concerns about terrorism, members of the Algerian soccer team refused to fly to Kazan for the Universaide.  According to some Tatars, they should not have worried because Russian officials have “introduced de facto martial law” in the Middle Volga city (

Kazan Universiade Second Tier and Boring, Moscow Writer Says.  According to one Moscow commentator, the Kazan World University Games have failed to attrack first-tier athletes and thus are boring for fans like himself. In many ways, Anton Orekh says, the whole idea of the games recalls Soviet-era practices in its pompous ceremonialism and the forced volunteering of locals tomake sure that the competition in fact taks place.  Such an approach will continue in Russia, he adde, until Russsians complain about “billions” being spent on advertising and benefitting only the top and demand that such money be spent on collecting  trash rather than holding Olympic games ( A review of blogger comment on the Kazan competitions which are widely viewed as preparation for Sochi finds that many Russians already share that view (

Kazan Hasn’t Gained as Much from Universiade as Moscow Promised.  Residents of the Tatarstan capital will be glad when the competition is over but even then they will face problems: underpasses that fill up with water every time it rains, inaccessible venues, and what many there believe are increasingly unsafe subways (

Mongol Conquest Didn’t Destroy More Flora and Fauna Than Sochi Construction Has. A Russian nationalist commentator observes that “the Mongol yoke” may have done a lot of damage to Russia but it didn’t destroy as much of the natural environment or those who seek to defend it as the builders of the Sochi Olympics have. The official structure intended to protect the environment there has been disbanded, and individual activists are rushing in to try to save particularly rare species ( and

Ukrainian Paper Says Sochi Security Cooperation Highlights Differences between Russian and Western Approaches.  An article in “Tyzden” says that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s push for security cooperation with the West to protect the Sochi games from terrorism has had the unitntended consequence of highlighting the contrasting purposes and methods of the security services in Russia and those in Western countries (

Security Threats to Sochi Profit Center for Western Firms.The Security Information Watch site, which provides information to businesses specializing in security installations, says that security threats to Sochi and other Russian cities are so great that Western firms can hope to profit from the billions of US dollars that Moscow intends to spend protecting them now and in the future (

Sochi Mayor Promises to Build Animal Protection Center. Having been stung by his earlier plans to kill homeless cats and dogs to “clean up” the Olympic city, Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov has told animal rights activists that he favors building a pound where they can be held pending adoption. But activists are uncertain whether he will ever provide the funds or the approval for this project and some fear this is only a PR effort to distract attention from the earlier program (, and

Sochi Train Derails Because Tracks Warped by Heat.  A passenger train from Siberia to Sochi derailed after extreme heat warped the tracks. More than 70 people on the train were injured (

French Paper Says Terrorist Act in Sochi Would Hurt Putin’s ‘Creditworthiness.’ An article in Le Figaro says that Russian President Vladimir Putin will do everything he can to prevent a terrorist act in Sochi in the first instance because such an event would harm his “creditworthiness” (

Sochi Residents Outraged by Privatization, Legal and Illegal, of Access to Beaches.  Sochi residents and many visitors are upset that the authorities have allowed private individuals to block access to what had been public beaches. Some of them say that this returns the city to where it was before 1917 when only members of the Russian elite were allowed to bathe there and local Muslim groups were kept out ( ,, and

Moscow to Deploy 37,000 Police for Sochi Olympiad.  The Russian interior ministry says that it will field 37,000 Russian policemen during the games to ensure security as part of “a multi-layer security system” that officials say is “fully compatible with demands of the International Olympic Committee” (  and

US State Department Warns LGBTs of Problems in Russia.  The State Departent says that “discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is widespread” in the Russian Federation and urges all US LGBT citizens to enroll in the departments Smart Traveller Enrollment Program ( ).

European Gays Call for “Meaningful Actions Against Russia.”  The International Lesbian, Gay,Bisexual Trans and Intersex Association of Europe has called on international organiations to condemn Russia’s anti-homosexual legislation and practice and consider “meaningful actions” against Moscow to force it to change. Some Gay activists have suggested that one possible step would be a boycott of the Sochi Olympics  (

Not One of 11 Russsian Cities Ready for 2018 Championships,’ Moscow Official Says.  Vitaly Mutko, the Russian Federation’s minister for sports, says that not a single one of the 11 Russian cities where the 2018 competition is supposed to take place is currently ready (

Russian Candidate for IOC Chief Calls for Cost-Cutting Measures in Future Games.  Sergey Bubka, a former Olympic pole vault champion who is now running for the presidency of the IOC says that costs for Olympiads have become too great and that cost-cutting measures should be implemented in the case of future competitions  and

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