Russia: The Sochi 2014 Olympics

Written by  //  February 23, 2014  //  Olympics, Russia  //  2 Comments

APTOPIX Sochi Olympics Closing Ceremony Mascot Sheds Tear as Sochi Winter Olympics Close
(ABC) Dmitry Chernyshenko, head of the Sochi organizing committee, called the games “a moment to cherish and pass on to the next generations.”
“This,” he said, “is the new face of Russia — our Russia.”
His nation celebrated its rich gifts to the worlds of music and literature in the ceremony, which started at 20:14 local time — a nod to the year that Putin seized upon to remake Russia’s image with the Olympics’ power to wow and concentrate global attention and massive resources.
Performers in smart tails and puffy white wigs performed a ballet of grand pianos, pushing 62 of them around the stadium floor while soloist Denis Matsuev played thunderous bars from Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No.2.
There was, of course, also ballet, with dancers from the Bolshoi and the Mariinsky, among the world’s oldest ballet companies. The faces of Russian authors through the ages were projected onto enormous screens, and a pile of books transformed into a swirling tornado of loose pages.
There was pomp and there was kitsch. The games’ polar bear mascot — standing tall as a tree — shed a fake tear as he blew out a cauldron of flames, extinguishing the Olympic torch that burned outside the stadium.

Sochi Olympics closing ceremony

The Globe & Mail snapshots of the last day

Golden generation leads Canadian men to Olympic hockey gold, again, in Sochi

American snowboard defector wins two gold for RUSSIA! Slalom star who gave up his US citizenship after marrying Moscow snowboarder triumphs in Sochi
Vic Wild, 27, married Russian snowboarded Alena Zavarzina, 24, in 2001
Wild was frustrated with lack of funding for snowboarding in US and moved to Moscow to represent Russia — Won first gold medal Wednesday minutes after his wife took home bronze
21 February
The Importance Of Finland’s Olympic Ice Hockey Victory Over Russia
What the usual sports stories won’t tell you is that this victory runs deeper than mere sports for the Finns – since they’ve had a longstanding resentment of the Russian bear.
One Finnish newspaper described the win as “having beaten the foe from across the eastern border.” The Helsinki Times described it as “Team Finland battled gallantly to claim a hard-earned victory over hosts Russia.”
20 February
Russia stuns with Olympic gold in women’s figure skating, U.S. shut out
(CBS) Adelina Sotnikova gave Russia its first gold medal in women’s Olympic figure skating.
While much-heralded Julia Lipnitskaia was stumbling, the 17-year-old Sotnikova soared. When she won the free skate Thursday at the Sochi Games, she denied South Korea’s Yuna Kim from defending (sic) her title and confirmed Russian command of the sport once more. However, The Wire and several distinguished commentators beg to differ: Why People Think Adelina Sotnikova’s Figure Skating Gold Medal Was Rigged The South Koreans obviously agree: South Korea protests women’s figure skating result — Koreans say biased judging cost Yuna Kim 2nd gold.(22 February)
19 February
Russia suffer shock 3-1 defeat to Finland in men’s ice hockey
Lacklustre display ends hosts’ dreams of gold medal
(The Guardian) The Russian ice hockey team suffered an ignominious defeat by Finland on Wednesday, knocking them out of what had been considered one of the most important events for the hosts at the Sochi Games.
The Russians lost 3-1 in a quarter-final upset that was greeted with amazement and depression among Russian fans. Ice hockey is by far the most popular sport in Russia of those represented at the Winter Olympics and is also one of the favoured sports of the President, Vladimir Putin, who plays with friends on a regular basis.
18 February
It’s sad that they felt it necessary to end on this note
Tessa Virtue, Scott Moir criticize coach’s split focus
Canadian ice dance pair coach with American gold medallists Davis and White
17 February
Another face of the Sochi Games
Discrimination Olympics: Meddling with Muslims in Sochi
Why Putin’s Islamophobic policies pervade the Winter Olympics at Sochi.
15 February
As one post said: I will remember [these stories] longer than the medal stories.
Peru and Switzerland offer a gold medal moment for our hearts
When Roberto Carcelen — their first ever winter Olympian, now competing in Sochi — broke a rib in training, he wasn’t about to let that little detail stop him from competing in the arduous 15km cross-country ski race.
Carcelen was badly out-gunned in the intense competition. In fact, the gold medal leader — Dario Cologna from Switzerland — managed to finish the race in 38:29. But Carcelen finished dead last, a 1:06:28. Carcelen was so slow that he was actually alone on the course for more than 10 minutes before crossing the finish line.
But Carcelen had heart. He had drive and he was competing with a broken rib. Knowing he was dead last, he even finished the race with his country’s flag over his head, crossing the finish line with pride.
But that’s when he saw the gold medallist, Cologna from Switzerland and Nepal’s Dachhiri Sherpa, waiting for him.
Sarah Burke honoured on Flag Day
Prime Minister Stephen Harper announces that family of the late freestyle skier Sarah Burke will receive the Peace Tower flag on Saturday to mark the National Flag of Canada Day
12 February
Denny Morrison Wins Speed Skating Silver After Teammate Gives Up Spot
Morrison wasn’t even supposed to compete in the 1,000.
But teammate Gilmore Junio gave his spot to Morrison because he knew Morrison was the team’s best skater. Gilmore Junio For Closing Ceremony Flag Bearer? Athletes, Fans Start Campaign To Get Speed Skater Honour
The Calgary skater’s selfless move did not go unnoticed and many began a campaign to get Junio named as Canada’s flag bearer for the closing ceremony on Feb. 23rd.
Cross Country Skier Breaks Ski, Still Finishes The Race After An Opposing Coach Runs Onto The Course To Help Him
(Business Insider) This is everything that’s great about the Olympics.
In the finals of the men’s cross country skiing sprint, Russia’s Anton Gafarov crashed but still managed to finish the race thanks to Canadian coach Justin Wadsworth, who ran onto the course to help him.
Letter from Sochi: The Olympic Debut of New Russia
(Spiegel) The Sochi Olympics began under a cloud of criticism and distrust. On the ground, however, people are doing all they can to impress the world with images from a city that is representative of a new, more hopeful young Russia.
… The birth rate in Sochi has climbed by 38 percent in the last seven years and the number of students attending the city’s university is likewise growing. A film festival has been launched, there is a new seaside promenade, an investment forum and this fall, the city will host a Formula One race for the first time. …
Indeed, when the athletes head home, they will leave behind three new hospitals, six recreation centers, 19 new cultural centers, 800 kilometers of new power cables, 4,000 freshly built apartments and a ring road, which will relieve traffic in the city center. In the run-up to the games, there were 206 construction projects; fully 176 of them were not directly associated with the Olympics.
Sochi Olympics is a cyber war zone, experts warn
(FT)  Foreign visitors to the Winter Olympics in Sochi are unknowingly wading into a cyber battlefield, the US government and security experts have warned. Large international events – packed with diplomats, business leaders and celebrities – have become honeypots for computer hackers, while Russia is home to some of the most feared cyber criminals in the world.
The Sochi games have already been plagued by fears of a potential terrorist attack and US officials have warned American supporters and athletes about the dangers of attending the games, which began on Friday. But in a sign of the mounting worries over the cyber threat, the US government issued guidance advising American visitors to Sochi to remove all important information from their computers and devices before they travel. They were also told to assume their communications were being monitored and that they should have “no expectation of privacy” in Russia because of the twin threat from hackers and surveillance from the state.
10 February
Why Quebec athletes are leading the way for Canada at Sochi Games
(Globe & Mail) In Sochi, Quebec-based athletes have posted the top Canadian result in all but five of the 18 competitions held so far in which Canadian athletes are represented.
The obvious question is: Why? Poet and singer Gilles Vigneault surely provided part of the answer with his iconic Quebecois hymn Mon pays c’est l’hiver, but that’s not an especially comprehensive explanation. There are many facets to the answer, from Quebec’s geography, to bigger and better funding for Quebec athletes that has led to nearly 40 per cent of Canada’s Sochi delegation hailing from the province.
Sochi mascots
6 February
Fireworks are seen over the Olympic Park during the opening ceremony at the Adler district of Sochi The 8 most memorable moments of Sochi Olympics Opening Ceremony
The 2014 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony was a dazzling journey through Russia’s past and future, turning the Fisht Stadium into a temple of vivid light displays and massive stage design on Friday night.
But in keeping with the rest of the Sochi Games’ experience thus far, it wasn’t without an infamous glitch.
At the start of the show, five large snowflakes were to transform into the five Olympic rings. Alas, only four made the transformation, making it appear as if the Sochi Games had a giant asterisk.
But hey, as the Vancouver Olympics showed us: No one’s perfect. Especially in the Opening Ceremony.
The rest of the ceremony was a stirring tribute to the host nation’s history, geography and athletic and artistic achievement, utilizing more than 3,000 performers and several impressive set pieces.
Montreal circus troupe has hand in Sochi opening ceremonies
When 600 Russian acrobats, gymnasts, dancers and children take to the stage as part of the opening ceremonies at the Sochi Olympics, they will be performing movements created for them by a small Montreal circus troupe – after a lot of soul searching.
Sept Doigts de la Main (Seven Fingers of the Hand) was first approached to create one of several tableaux of Russian history for Friday’s opening about 18 months ago. The troupe agreed, only to find it faced a nasty dilemma when the Russian government passed a law last summer banning gay “propaganda.”
Like All Olympics, the Sochi Games Will Be Corrupt, Troubling … and Fabulous
(Slate) As we look to Sochi, we cannot forget that the Olympics provide an occasion within a messy, messy world—a world that does not stop when the Games begin—for greatness and understanding to exist within contexts of trouble, horror (there was a bombing in Atlanta), and, yes, hate. Sochi is not the most offensive host of the Olympics, at least not yet, and we should not expect the world to stop for the Games, because the Games are the world.
Russia Says It Knows Journalists Are Overhyping Sochi Hotel Problems Because It’s Spying On Them
Sochi Winter Olympics taking place near conflict zone Well, yes, I think we knew that.
Despite security preparations for the Sochi Olympics in Russia, the nearby North Caucasus region continues to be rife with violence, police actions and terrorism threats. In 2013, more than 500 militants and security officers were killed in locations such as Dagestan, Ingushetia and Kabardino-Balkaria.
The New York Times (tiered subscription model) (2/5)
Journalists at Sochi are live-tweeting their hilarious and gross hotel experiences
(WaPost) … reporters from around the world are starting to check into local hotels — to their apparent grief. Some journalists arriving in Sochi are describing appalling conditions in the housing there, where only six of nine media hotels are ready for guests. Hotels are still under construction. Water, if it’s running, isn’t drinkable. Don’t know whether CBC has special privileges, but we aren’t hearing a peep out of The National on the topic.Peter Mansbridge and his colleagues look well rested and happy.
Sochi Olympics: global press pack hang on for their rooms, lightbulbs and wi-fi
Construction delays at site of 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia test patience of journalists as opening of games nears
“We have plans for the introduction of Wi-Fi in the rooms in the foreseeable future.”
Hacked Within Minutes: Sochi Visitors Face Internet Minefield
(NBC) The U.S. State Department has told Americans coming to Sochi that they should have “no expectation of privacy,” even in their hotel rooms.
3 February
The Idiocy of Olympic Values
(Project Syndicate) … the root of the problems in Sochi lies much deeper than the corrupt practices of Putin’s friends or the hatefulness of his law on homosexual propaganda. Over and over, whether it is in Brazil or Qatar preparing for the soccer World Cup, or the Olympic Games held in oppressive and authoritarian societies, the same contradiction becomes apparent.
Even as FIFA, the world football association, or the International Olympic Committee insist that they are above politics, their grand events are politically exploited by all kinds of regimes, some of them less than savory. As a result, sport becomes political. And the more FIFA and the IOC protest their political innocence, the better it is for regimes that use international sporting events for their own ends.
Sochi construction delays on hotels have organizers worried
(CTV) … the accommodation situation for non-athletes threatened to become a major embarrassment for organizers when some Olympic-accredited people were turned away in recent days from unfinished hotels, or checked into unfinished rooms.
Organizers estimate that thousands of media will be arriving in Sochi on Monday. About 11,000 overall are expected to be covering Russia’s first Winter Games. Spectators are expected to flood in later in the week.
31 January
Protests over Russian anti-gay laws focus on Sochi, IOC and Olympic sponsors
(CTV) Despite seven months of international outcry, Russia’s law restricting gay-rights activity remains in place. Yet the eclectic protest campaign has heartened activists in Russia and caught the attention of its targets — including organizers and sponsors of the Sochi Olympics that open on Feb. 7.
Over the past two weeks, two major sponsors, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s, have seen some of their Sochi-related social media campaigns commandeered by gay-rights supporters who want the companies to condemn the law. Several activists plan to travel to Sochi, hoping to team up with sympathetic athletes to protest the law while in the Olympic spotlight.
And on Friday, a coalition of 40 human-rights and gay-rights groups from the U.S., Western Europe and Russia — including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Human Rights Campaign — released an open letter to the 10 biggest Olympic sponsors, urging them to denounce the law and run ads promoting equality for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people.
5 reasons why Sochi’s Olympics may be the most controversial Games yet
The staggering cost of Vladimir Putin’s Games and the backdrop of the ‘homosexual information’ law will mean all eyes will be on Sochi
The Guardian adds: militant jihadist movements in the Caucasus and the fact that Sochi is of great significance to the Circassian people, who suffered genocide at the hands of the Russian Empire in 1864
28 January
Putin cover New YorkerNew Yorker cover, February 3rd issue
As fans of winter sports prepare to watch Russia host its first Winter Olympics, in Sochi, Barry Blitt—the artist behind this week’s cover, “Jury of His Peers”—puts a spotlight on the country’s President, Vladimir Putin. “Mr. Putin is a gift to caricaturists (but to humanity in general, not so much),” he says.
Putin’s Run for Gold
At $50 billion and counting, the 2014 Winter Olympics, in Sochi, will be the most expensive Olympic Games ever. Intended to showcase the power of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, they may instead highlight its problems: organized crime, state corruption, and the terrorist threat within its borders
(Vanity Fair February 2014)) Sochi is a one-lane town with grave logistical challenges—an example of the I.O.C. making an “ interesting” choice under the cover of spreading its message, while currying political favor with a country that is not afraid to spend. Herein lies the meaning of these Olympics. In the Russian state’s continuing drive to prove a point—namely, that Russia is a player—it will attempt to demonstrate that mounting the Winter Olympics in a subtropical city is an impossibility that it can achieve. During the Putin years, Russia has been preoccupied with doing things “the Russian way,” whether the Russian way makes sense in a particular situation or not.
Beneath every modern Russian achievement lies a hidden story that may be more telling. In Sochi, the hidden story is about Putin, and about the small circle around him, who have profited handsomely from the construction

Sochi 2014: A Security Challenge
The Russian city of Sochi will host the 2014 Winter Olympics from Feb. 7 to Feb. 23 and the Paralympics from March 7 to March 16. Russia is no stranger to hosting high-profile global events; it hosted the 1980 Summer Olympics and is preparing for the 2018 World Cup final.
Though the 2014 games seemingly offer Moscow a perfect platform for showcasing the strength of its security apparatus, Russia will have to work overtime to protect athletes and spectators. This in turn could leave surrounding regions such as the Northern Caucasus and major cities such as Moscow and St. Petersburg exposed to militancy, terrorism and organized crime. Militants from the Caucasus striking elsewhere in Russia during the games to avoid the intense security that will be present in Sochi and to capitalize on news coverage of the highly publicized event pose the greatest threat to the games. (Stratfor 9 December 2013)

Olympic Sponsors Were Warned About Sochi; Now McDonald’s and Coca-Cola Are Having a PR Nightmare
LGBT people are not having it anymore. And apparently American multinational corporations had not realized that. They can offer their nondiscrimination policies, domestic partnership benefits and sponsorship of Pride events in the U.S. as evidence that they care about LGBT rights, but that’s no longer enough. With the Winter Olympics in Sochi, LGBT activists are making it clear that American companies can no longer get away with tacitly supporting foreign regimes that are brutalizing LGBT people. The backlash against such companies is probably only just beginning and will last long after Sochi.
26 January

Sochi Mayor Says There Are No Gay People In His City

The mayor of Sochi is under the impression that there are no gay people in his city.
Anatoly Pakhomov spoke with the BBC ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics and discussed how gay people would be treated in the Russian region with the country’s “homosexual propaganda” law in place. Pakhomov said gays are welcome at the Games in spite of this, so long as they “respect the laws of the Russian Federation and [don't] impose their habits on others.”
24 January
What the Sochi Olympics say about Russia
(Globe & Mail editorial) Vladimir Putin’s Russia successfully bid for the 2014 Winter Games, and subsequently spent tens of billions of dollars to bring them about, because it wanted to show the world how far the country has come since the end of Communism. So far, the experience has been a fair bit more revealing than Mr. Putin probably would have liked. For all its modernizations and its pretense of embracing free markets, the Russia on view in the weeks before the opening ceremony is a repressive, violent and intolerant country that is also now in the midst of a terrorism crisis. Mr. Putin, it seems, is getting the Olympic Games he deserves.
Jeremy Kinsman: The Sochi Olympics and the making of ‘Putin the Great’
Russian president’s politics are straight out of The Good Tsar’s Handbook
(CBC) It is widely written that the Sochi Olympics are a sales job to the world, as Beijing’s were in 2008. But they are more a sales job to Russians themselves, an attempt to have patriotic pride trump dissent with Putin’s authoritarian rule, former ambassador Jeremy Kinsman writes.
22 January
Nations get threatening email about possible terror attacks at Sochi (Hoax)
(AP) An email in Russian and English threatening national Olympic delegations and athletes with terrorist attacks at the Sochi Winter Games is a hoax, not a real danger, officials said Wednesday.
Hungarian sports officials, who first reported the email, said they have received assurances from the International Olympic Committee and from the Sochi organizers that the email had no merit. In light of that, the Hungarian Olympic Committee said it will still take part in the Winter Games, which run from Feb. 7-23.
Olympic committees from several other European countries, including Germany, Britain and Austria, said they had also received a similar message. None would share them with The Associated Press.
Wolfgang Eichler, spokesman for the Austrian National Olympic Committee, said the email was a hoax that officials had seen before.
“It’s a fake mail from a sender in Israel, who has been active with various threats for a few years,” Eichler told Austrian news agency APA. “It’s been checked out because it also arrived two years ago.”
10 January
Olympic Construction Sins: The Leaning Houses of Sochi
(Spiegel) Vladimir Putin promised the Olympics in Sochi would be as green as could be. Instead, the construction of facilities has had disastrous consequences for the environment, particularly for the residents of Baku Street, whose homes have become the victims of man-made erosion. …
When Sochi was awarded the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in 2007, the Kremlin pledged “zero waste,” meaning no environmental pollution. When the news emerged in October that Russia‘s state railway had been dumping construction waste from a large project to create a highway and railroad link between the Sochi airport and the Olympic venues at what authorities have described as an illegal landfill in the Caucasus, the International Olympic Committee reacted with outrage. At the same time, it must have been clear that with the magnitude of investments required to prepare for an event as big as the Olympics, this promise of a “green games” would be very difficult to keep. …
Environmentalists have little power against a prestigious project of this size, and most environmental organizations have already left Sochi. Environmental Watch in the North Caucasus, a regional umbrella group of activists that also includes Vladimir Kimayev, is the exception.
4 January
NB Episode only available within Canada for a limited time after broadcast.
The Passionate Eye: Putin’s Games
During the production of Putin’s Games, the producers were offered 600,000 euros not to show the film anywhere, but they refused. Recently, Russian authorities tried to cancel its only scheduled screening in Russia, but the largest documentary festival in Moscow went ahead with the premiere and had a standing room only crowd.
As costs for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia spiral to in excess of $50 billion dollars, Putin’s Games goes behind the scenes to investigate why the first Winter Games to be held in a sub-tropical resort have become the most expensive Olympics ever. With extraordinary access to top government officials and wealthy Russian businessmen, the documentary follows the preparations from the early stages, exposing alleged corruption, the sky-rocketing budget and the big winners and losers. Putin’s Games questions the entire Sochi nomination, while revealing the environmental and human costs of constructing a faux “winter” for the upcoming Winter Games. “You’d have to spend a long time searching the map of this huge country to find someplace with no snow,” says Boris Nemtsov, a member of the Russian Opposition Coordination Council. “Putin found it.”
As we watch the Olympic site take shape, Putin’s Games reveals the stories of corruption and bribery behind the Games. Valery Morozov, a well-known Russian contractor describes how he fled to the UK after bribes were demanded in exchange for a lucrative construction project in Sochi. Elena Panifilova, Executive Director of Transparency International Russia summarizes the dilemma,” You can be an accomplice or a victim. The choice is yours.”
Some residents of Sochi complain that the Games have ruined their resort town. The massive construction projects have left the area scarred with giant landfills, polluted rivers and the destruction of nature reserves. Over 200 Olympic facilities will eventually be built, not including the infrastructure needed to support it.
2 January
The Waste and Corruption of Vladimir Putin’s 2014 Winter OlympicsIs Russia Ready
The new road and railway to Krasnaya Polyana, the mountain resort that will host the ski and snowboard events of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, start in Adler, a beachfront town that has become a boisterous tangle of highway interchanges and construction sites. A newly opened, glass-fronted train station—the largest in Russia—sits like a sparkling prism between the green and brown peaks of the Caucasus Mountains and the lapping waves of the Black Sea.
The state agency that oversaw the infrastructure project is Russian Railways, or RZhD. The agency’s head is Vladimir Yakunin, a close associate of Vladimir Putin. It oversees 52,000 miles of rail track, the third-largest network in the world, and employs nearly a million people. The 31-mile Adler-to-Krasnaya Polyana project is among its most ambitious, reminiscent in its man-against-nature quality of the Baikal-Amur Mainline railway built by the Soviet Union in the 1970s and ’80s across the remote taiga forests of the Russian Far East. Now, as then, grandeur and showmanship are as important as the finished project. Putin sees the Sochi Games as a capstone to the economic and geopolitical revival of Russia, which he has effectively ruled for 14 years. The route connects the arenas and Olympic Village along the Black Sea with the mountains above. Andrey Dudnik, the deputy head of Sochi construction for RZhD, is proud of his company’s accomplishment, given the region’s difficult terrain and the rushed time frame for finishing construction. “Few people believed,” he says. “But we did it.” …
Among Russians, the project is famous for a different reason: its price tag. At $8.7 billion, it eclipses the total cost for preparations for the last Winter Olympics in Vancouver in 2010. A report by opposition politicians Boris Nemtsov and Leonid Martynyuk calculated that the Russian state spent three times more on the road than NASA did for the delivery and operation of a new generation of Mars rovers. An article in Russian Esquire estimated that for the sum the government spent on the road, it could have been paved entirely with a centimeter-thick coating of beluga caviar.
Brian Glyn Williams — The Dark Secret Behind the Sochi Olympics: Russia’s Efforts to Hide a Tsarist-Era Genocide
Putin has thus far been very successful in conflating Russia’s neo-colonial war against Chechen separatists with America’s war on nihilist Al Qaeda Arab terrorists. Any attempt to remind the world of Imperial Russia/Post-Soviet Russia’s war crimes in the Caucasus is a threat to Putin’s pet project, the whitewashed Sochi Olympics. This of course not to excuse the brutal terroristic acts of the Caucasian Emirate or the Chechen rebels, but it certainly provides the one thing that Putin does not want the world to see as he constructs his “Potemkin village” in Sochi, and that is an honest account of the events that have made this the most terrorist fraught Olympic games since the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich.
(HuffPost) I have had several students email me and ask me what the Volgograd bombers’ message or objective was. This article is meant to both answer their question and provide an ingredient that has all too often been lacking in the discussion on Chechen terrorism in Russia, historical context.
While we Americans of the iPhone/Wikipedia era like quick, simple answers (President Bush once famously summed up all the complexity of Al Qaeda’s motives for attacking America on 9/11 by simplistically stating “They hate us for our freedom”), the answer to my students’ question is not so simple and involves a journey back in time to the 19th Century Caucasus Mountains which separated Tsarist Russia from the Dar al Islam (Realm of Islam). The origins of the recent bombings and the terror threat that hangs over the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi lies in this region once known as the “Graveyard of the Russian Empire.” And ironically enough, it does have to do with freedom as Bush stated in his explanation, only in this case the Caucasian mountaineers’ loss of their freedom.
30 December
Winter Olympics countdown tinged with fear after Volgograd blasts
All over Russia, clocks in public places show there are only 38 days to go until the start of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. But the countdown, intended as a display of pride and anticipation, has become fraught with fear after a string of terrorist attacks in the region neighbouring the venue.Terrorism experts say the two deadly bomb blasts in Volgograd within 24 hours have succeeded in shattering Russia’s confidence that a massive security operation can guarantee a safe games.
23 December
Assessing the Terrorist Threat to the Sochi Olympics
(Geopolitical monitor) On July 3rd 2013, in a video published on YouTube that was almost immediately taken down, Doku Umarov, the self-proclaimed emir of a Caucasus Emirate in the southwest of the Russian Federation, lifted the moratorium on military operations targeting civilians that he unilaterally declared several months ago. He also called on his troops to do everything possible to oppose and to prevent the proper execution of the Sochi Winter Games in February 2014. The Caucasian leader could not forego this ideal occasion to remind the world of the enduring struggle led first by the Chechens in their fight for independence (1994-2005) and then taken up by a very loose network of Islamist armed groups that thrived in the neighboring republics of Dagestan, Ingushetia and Kabardino-Balkaria. What does this Caucasus Emirate represent today? And what can its fighters do?
17 December
Sochi poster
Obama Jabs Putin, Picks Openly Gay Delegates For Winter Olympics In Russia
President Barack Obama on Tuesday announced his delegates to the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. And, in what may be a thumb in the eye to Russian President Vladimir Putin over his crackdown on gay rights, two of Obama’s delegates are openly gay.
In what may be another slight to the Russian president, Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and first lady Michelle Obama will not attend the opening ceremony. This marks the first time since the 2000 Summer Olympic Games that a president, vice president, first lady or former president won’t be part of the opening ceremony.
10 December
Sochi sets up protest zones in city: IOC
(Reuters) – The city of Sochi will have specific protest zones for demonstrators to air their views when it hosts the 2014 winter Olympics in February, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was told on Tuesday. … it is unclear how such protests could take place given the Russian Black Sea resort will be all but locked down for the Olympics for security reasons.
Russia faces security challenges because the city is next to the restive North Caucasus region, which is disrupted by almost daily violence from an Islamist insurgency rooted in two Chechen wars.
6 October
The Passionate Eye: Putin’s Road to Sochi
As costs for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia spiral to in excess of $50 billion dollars, Putin’s Road to Sochi goes behind the scenes to investigate why the first Winter Games to be held in a sub-tropical resort have become the most expensive Olympics ever. With extraordinary access to top government officials and wealthy Russian businessmen, the documentary follows the preparations from the early stages, exposing alleged corruption, the sky-rocketing budget and the big winners and losers. Putin’s Road to Sochi questions the entire Sochi nomination, while revealing the environmental and human costs of constructing a faux “winter” for the upcoming Winter Games. “You’d have to spend a long time searching the map of this huge country to find someplace with no snow,” says Boris Nemtsov, a member of the Russian Opposition Coordination Council. “Putin found it.”
28 September
Official site
Sochi flame lighting rehearsal successful at Ancient Olympia
[AP] Using the sun’s rays at the birthplace of the ancient Olympics, organizers carried out a successful rehearsal on Saturday to light the flame for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
Under clear skies, actresses dressed as ancient priestesses took part in the rehearsal at Ancient Olympia in southern Greece — lighting the torch using a parabolic mirror.
The flame will be kept in reserve for the actual ceremony to be held on Sunday.
Thomas Bach, elected this month as the new president of the International Olympic Committee, was present at the events.
The Russian leg of the torch relay is set to cover 65,000 kilometers before the February 7-23 Winter Games.
25 August
The IOC should say publicly what it thinks of Russia’s anti-gay law
(Globe & Mail editorial) The Russian government has told the International Olympic Committee that the Sochi Games will be free from discrimination against homosexuals. That claim is not good enough. Neither is the IOC’s response.
The IOC has traditionally stayed away from politics. But it cannot pretend to stand apart from the event it orchestrates. The choice of host country impacts billions of dollars of infrastructure investment, and billions more in sponsorship and marketing revenues. Allowing Russia to bask in the glory of an Olympic Games – and to use the event to advertise the country, as all hosts do – while flouting many of the ideals the movement stands for is perverse. A boycott is not the right response, but the IOC needs to denounce conduct in its host country that tarnishes the principles supposedly at the core of the Olympics.
19 August
Don’t boycott Russia’s Olympics, raise the rainbow flag instead: Joe Schlesinger
Russia’s anti-gay law is provoking an Olympian backlash, but an outright boycott is not the answer
It’s going to be hard for the athletes at the Sochi Games to show their disapproval of Russia’s anti-gay laws. It’ll take courage not just to cope with harassment by the Russians, but also with possible sanctions by the IOC and other athletic organizations.
It’ll also take clout. And clout in the Olympic Games means winning medals, breaking records, and gaining fame and a following of fans.
If enough medalists, straight as well as gay, unfurled rainbow flags from the winners’ podium it would be a strong message to the world – and above all to the Russians — that in the 21st century the diversity of sexual orientation is a basic human right. The signal would be as strong as that sent by Jesse Owens in Berlin more than half a century ago.
15 August
John Parisella: How to Respond to Putin’s Provocation
(Americas Quarterly) History is sadly full of examples of tyranny not being met with a strong stand on principles. Putin is out of step with the rest of the world. He can either continue on his path to greater isolation, or become a constructive partner in developing a more positive and mutually beneficial world order. In the meantime, the response is the right one: no to Putin’s anti-gay policies, and yes to the Olympic spirit and the upcoming Winter Games.
12 August
Pressure mounts on IOC amid backlash on Russia anti-gay law

Next president will inherit controversy after election next month
(CBC) The contentious Russian legislation poses a problem for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and not only because of the negative publicity it has been generating. It also appears to contravene the “fundamental principles” of the Olympic Charter, which promotes non-discrimination. Finally, it could potentially threaten the safety of those who will attend the Sochi Games. …
[Bruce Kidd, a former Olympian and professor at the University of Toronto who has written a book on IOC reform.] said he hopes that Russia’s anti-gay law becomes an issue next month when the IOC’s 104 members converge at the Buenos Aires Hilton hotel to elect a new president.
Rogge is due to step down after 12 years at the helm of the international body, paving the way for a new top official. Kidd said he believes the incoming president will determine to a large extent how the IOC will handle the escalating controversy. “This is like a major change in government in what is a one-party state,” he said.
5 August
Boycotting the 2014 Sochi Olympics Is a Really Bad Idea
(Bloomberg) It would also be a disaster. First, Olympic boycotts have proved to be singularly useless instruments of foreign policy. Twenty-five African nations stayed out of the 1976 Olympics in Montreal to protest the participation of New Zealand, whose rugby team was touring South Africa at the time. The African boycott hurt Canada far more than it did either New Zealand or South Africa’s apartheid regime, which survived another 18 years.
In 1980, President Jimmy Carter ordered a boycott of the Summer Games in Moscow, demanding that the Soviet Union withdraw from Afghanistan; it was another decade before the last Russian soldier left.
The Soviets returned the favor in 1984, keeping the athletes of the Communist bloc out of the Games in Los Angeles. Moscow claimed its boycott was a response to “chauvinistic sentiments and an anti-Soviet hysteria … being whipped up in the United States.” The American chauvinist-in-chief, Ronald Reagan, rode the burst of national pride from the Olympics to a landslide reelection. Five years later the Iron Curtain crumbled.
History suggests the biggest beneficiary of a U.S. boycott of the Sochi Games would be the host nation itself.
11 April
Russia’s Olympic City
Russia is pushing ahead with its projects for the 2014 Winter Olympics. But not everyone is happy.
8 February
Life in Sochi: From lush resort to Olympic construction site
(CBC) When I was growing up in Sochi, it felt like it was the best place on Earth.
The resort community on the coast of the Black Sea in Russia was very calm, very beautiful and overwhelmingly green.
Its beautiful parks with their lush, tropical greenery, along with the warm, clean waters of the Black Sea and the monumental health resorts, were so impressive that 20 years later, they still stand out in my mind.
Now, though, the city where my family still lives is a giant construction site filled with dirt and noise, and residents are wrestling with the legacy the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games will leave.
7 February
Russians celebrate one year countdown to Sochi Winter Olympics
(Deutsche Welle‎) Russia has begun the one-year countdown until the Black Sea city of Sochi hosts the Winter Olympic Games. President Vladimir Putin attended the event after firing a senior official in the organizing committee. … Following a visit to the Russkie Gorky ski-jumping complex on Wednesday, President Putin expressed his anger over major construction delays and cost overruns. He subsequently ordered the deputy head of Russia’s Olympic Committee be fired.
Sochi Olympics 1 year away Countdown begins to 2014 Winter Games
(CBC) some background on the host city, new events, Canada’s outlook, and more.
6 February
The Sochi Olympics — Gold medals for some
(The Economist) Once the home of grand but faded Soviet-era sanatoria, Sochi has been transformed into a gleaming showpiece of a revitalized, confident Russia—some even term it the country own “little Monaco”. Most of the Olympic projects are nearing completion, and Mr Putin is set to meet with IOC officials in Sochi this week as they mark the official countdown to the start of the Games next February.
The tens of thousands of migrant workers toiling at the Olympic venues and other sites have less to celebrate, according to a 67-page report published today by Human Rights Watch. It documents multiple cases of workplace abuse and exploitation: non-payment of promised wages, 12-hour shifts with few or no days off, confiscation of travel and identity documents, and breach or withholding of employment contracts.

2 Comments on "Russia: The Sochi 2014 Olympics"

  1. Diana Thebaud Nicholson January 6, 2014 at 1:53 am · Reply

    Nick’s Gleanings 543 – January 2, 2014
    The two recent bombings in Volgograd have raised the profile of the security issue at the Sochi Winter Olympics six weeks hence & are making the Russian authorities even more security paranoid. For it has to be a uniquely tempting target for any number of people who want to give Putin a black eye. While the London Olympics went off without a terrorist hitch, with the taming of the IRA it lacked a ‘natural enemy’, &, unlike Putin, there were few, if any, serious David Cameron-, or Queen Elizabeth-, haters. But there may be a precedent in Britain for what may (literally) lie in wait in Sochi. For back in 1984 Margaret Thatcher & most, but not all, of her supporters escaped death at its Brighton Party Conference when the IRA exploded a bomb there it had put in place a month earlier. To construct the Sochi facilities Russia employed an army of migrant workers from countries some of whose people hate Russia (incl. Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Serbia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan & Ukraine), and then overworked & underpaid them. So any one of them may have personal-, as well as community-based-, reasons to help pre-position terrorist devices at various Sochi sites – as is often the case, I hope to be proven wrong but fear I may be proven right.

  2. Diana Thebaud Nicholson January 11, 2014 at 2:25 am · Reply

    Nick’s Gleanings 544 – January 10, 2014
    Back in 2007, when Russia bid for the 2014 Winter Olympics, Putin pledged to the IOC he would spend US$12BN to turn Sochi into a “world class resort” for a “new Russia” & the rest of the world. Its official cost now is US$51BN (with other, still higher, estimates given credence by Russian officials’ growing reluctance to discuss its cost & the claim by the official responsible for the project that only US$6BN is directly Olympics-related & the rest just infrastructure-, & regional development-, spending). One big black hole is the 31 mile road & railroad link to the Alpine village of Krasnaya Polyana, where all ski-, & snowboard-, events will be held, that will cost US$280MM per mile.
    To put these numbers into perspective, the entire cost of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics was US$7BN & of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, a much bigger event with 11,000, rather than 2,500, athletes & 40, rather than 15, venues, US$40BN.

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