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Sochi: Putin's $51Bln Game of Russian Roulette

Published: January 30, 2014 (Issue # 1795)



  • President Vladimir Putin with Sochi volunteers earlier this month.
    Photo: sochi2014.com

MOSCOW (AP) — For Vladimir Putin, the Winter Olympics he brought to Sochi have always been about far more than sports.

The benefits the Russian president expects from holding the games range from improving Russia's international standing and instilling a sense of national pride to turning around the country's demographic decline. And of course Putin wants to be seen, at home and abroad, as the man who made this all possible.

That's a tall order for an international sports event.

And what if terrorists strike the Olympics, which are taking place Feb. 7-23 just a few hundred miles (kilometers) west of a region where Islamic insurgents carry out bombings and other attacks almost daily? Or if a winter storm rips through the Black Sea resort, knocking out its hastily finished electric grid? Or even if Russian athletes in Sochi repeat their dismal performance of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games?

Related: A Crumbling Sochi Hides Behind Olympic Facades

If — for one reason or another — Sochi is deemed to be a disaster, the $51 billion spent on Putin's games may suddenly seem like a colossal waste of money. That amount dwarfs the spending of any other Olympics, winter or summer.

"Has Putin over-invested in these games?" Stephen Sestanovich, a Columbia University professor and Russia scholar, asked rhetorically. "Almost surely. And I think the disproportion of the investment will be clearer if the Russians don't bring home a trove of gold medals and if the security situation goes badly."

Putin has made the 2014 Winter Games his personal project from the very beginning, directing an ambitious undertaking to transform Sochi, a once-tacky Soviet-era summer resort, into a world-class winter sports center.

Related: Navalny Publishes Sochi Corruption Report

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Saturday, Aug. 23


Uppsala Park plays host to Fairy Noon today, a performance of five separate fairy tales ranging from folk classics to more haunting selections. There will be three different renditions of the tales throughout the day and tickets start at 500 rubles ($13.80) for adults and 300 rubles ($8.30) for children.


Classic Finnish cartoon characters the Moomins expect to receive a warm welcome from Russian fans during today’s Moomin Festival at the Pearl Plaza Shopping Center at 51 Petergofskoye Shosse. Become a kid again or introduce a new generation to the beloved creation of Finnish writer Tove Jansson.



Sunday, Aug. 24


The tortured genius of Dutch master Vincent van Gogh gets his day in the center’s Konnushnaya Ploschad during Make Art Like Van Gogh, a daylong celebration of the artist that will allow amateur artists to try and replicate the work that made the famed painter world-renowned.


Experience a variety of dances highlighting the diversity of the world around as at the final day of the Ethno-Dance International Dance Festival that has been at the St. Petersburg Humanitarian University of Trade Unions this past week. Tonight’s performance will feature Egyptian dancers accompanied by local orchestras.



Monday, Aug. 25


Today kicks off the Elena Obraztsovoy International Competition for Young Vocalists in the large hall of the Shostakovich Philharmonic. Talented youngsters will showcase their range over the next six days before a winner is chosen on Aug. 30.



Tuesday, Aug. 26


Love movies but hate all those words? Then check out Rodina Cinema Center’s Factor of Consensus film forum this evening. Silent movie classics from the beginning of the 20th century will be screened and accompanied by a pianist, who will provide the soundtrack for the ongoing action. The screenings begin at 7 p.m. Check Rodina’s website for more details.



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