Sochi Olympics Watch #21

It’s game time. The iron fist has closed around Sochi.

In an effort to “place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity,” – one of the principles of Olympism – “(a)n army of 30,000 is deployed. A further 40,000 police and internal security troops lie in reserve. Missile launchers and tracking devices are commissioned. Air and naval units stand ready. On Tuesday this entire force was put on ‘combat alert’ for a month.”, writes the Guardian.

Since 2009 Common Sense and Whiskey’s Sochi Olympics Watch has been pointing out that Sochi and Grozny, ground zero in the vicious Chechen wars, are scarcely 250 miles apart. From March 2009:

“Today’s International Herald Tribune carries the following story: Chechen leader imposes strict Islamic code. Business Week/Spiegel points out that there have been six bomb attacks in Sochi proper over the past year, and four people have died.

The last Russian games were the American-boycotted 1980 Moscow summer Olympics. Perhaps the IOC decided that after 34 years, it was Russia’s turn again. We’ll see how it turns out, but the Olympic Committee’s wisdom at picking the Russian Caucasus looks a little dicey from here.”

With 34 deaths in Volgagrad associated with the Sochi games a month before they begin, I’d say the best the Olympic Committee can hope for from Vladimir Putin’s vanity project is relief, if it ends with no further violence.

(Whatever befalls these games, Putin picks up a little something.)

Big Sports just thinks funny. Stand by for World Cup Watch, Qatar 2022.

Sochi Olympics Watch #20

Sometime before the Sochi Olympics opening ceremonies in 58 days, try to set a little time aside for this 17 minute excerpt (as viewed on RFE/RL by permission) from Putin’s Games, a film by Director Alexander Gentelev. From the fim’s website:

“The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia will be the first ever to be held in a subtropical resort. The most expensive games ever break all records when it comes to corruption and megalomania. Putin’s administration has everyone at its beck and call, from oligarchs down to the ordinary people who have to pay the Olympic bill. Both the powerful and the weak speak out in this investigative documentary, which unveils the hidden story behind Putin’s games. Government critic Garry Kasparov says that Putin’s Olympic propaganda is really all about speeding up the privatization of land in Sochi. Many inhabitants have had to make way for hotels, ski jumps and a large harbor, which were subsequently swept away by storms and landslides – the Olympic village was built on a swamp in the hottest region of Russia. To a large extent, the story of these environmentally unfriendly Olympic Games is one of threats and enormous misappropriations of money. The 45-kilometer (28-mile) road to the Olympic Village was so expensive that it might as well have been paved with gold or black caviar. Director Alexander Gentelev got to speak to many key figures, from the mayor of Sochi and corrupt contractors, senators and lobbyists to the president of the Russian National Olympic Committee.”

Meanwhile Foreign Policy magazine has photos and excerpts from what looks like a huge coffee table book, The Sochi Project, An Atlas of War and Tourism in the Caucasus.

Both show all the fun, clean, aw shucks, doggone it, GOOD FEELING that’s building in southern Russia around these Olympics. Heck, you can almost feel it from here.

Sochi Olympic Watch #19

From a report by Boris Nemtsov, former reformist mayor of Nizhny Novgorod and thorn in the Kremlin’s side forever:

“The Sochi Olympics has gone down in history before it has opened: it is the most expensive Olympics in the history of humankind. With over $50 billion already spent, it is more expensive than the sports buildings of all the other winter Olympics combined, and there have already been 21 of them.”

That fun little tidbit appeared in The Interpreter magazine, which looks like it ought to ride up to the top of everybody’s bookmarks during the Sochi Olympics. Why, just today its lead story is Sochi Migration Service Catching Journalists. “As she was holding a tape recorder, Lukyanova attracted the attentions of officials….” the article explains. It’s no good for journalists to hold tape recorders on advance of the Olympics, as we all know.

Sochi Olympics Watch #18

It’s just about game time. Under a hundred days. The Olympic flame is up in space without the flame. Good feelings are firmly in place, in a sort of former Soviet way. Just ask the Norwegian TV crew that was stopped by authorities on their pre-Olympics publicity tour. Six times.

Then there was that bus bombing.

Remember all those other winter Olympics? Vancouver, Lillehammer, Nagano, the cute little ones that cost in the low billions?

This one will cost over 50 billion dollars, more than any summer games, and where did all that money go? Can’t find most of it. Surprise!

Those old ones were all full of good feeling and snowmen and not a peep about jailing gay people. This one will be full of snow, even if they have to use last year’s. As to jailing gay people, let’s see. Everybody’s gonna talk about it.

But it’s okay. Y’all come, have a good time. Me and my boys is cool.



Sochi Olympics Watch #17


We all know about all that nasty corruption (2, 3) surrounding the most expensive ever $50 billion Sochi Olympics, now just four months away. We’ve heard how Sochi is only 300 miles from Grozny, about that £5 billion thirty mile road, about the whole Russian gay paranoia thing and how 2014 is turning into a Gulag Olympics, and darn it, now the Olympic flame keeps going out. The photo is a screen grab from Novosti, in which former Soviet world swimming champion Shavarsh Karapetyan gets a hand from an unidentified man with a cigarette lighter as he runs around the Kremlin in a nationally televised ceremony.

Here’s a look inside the factory that built the torches.

Meanwhile, writes The Guardian, “an IOC delegation praised the ‘magnificent’ venues and promised a ‘fabulous experience’.”