The PJ Tatler

The Most Expensive, the Most Corrupt, and the Most Dangerous Olympics in History

There is a good summation of the problems with the Sochi Winter Olympics by Frances Weaver in The Week today. It’s about what you’d expect from modern day Russia ruled by former KGB agent Vladamir Putin. In fact, the Olympic movement hasn’t seen anything remotely like it.

First, the cost: $51 billion. By contrast, the Vancouver Olympics in 2010 cost around $8 billion. And Putin, who showed up in Guatemala in 2007 to personally lobby the IOC for Sochi, received the bid largely because he promised to spend $12 billion.

How does $12 billion turn into $51 billion?

Attempting to stage winter events in a subtropical resort known as the “Russian Riviera” is an expensive, climate-defying business. Though the 7,600-foot-high slopes at the neighboring mountain resort of Krasnaya Polyana are almost guaranteed February snow, the same can’t be said for the lower slopes or at sea level, where the average daytime winter temperature is a pleasant 52 degrees. So officials have had to drain swamps, store last year’s snow, and install 400 snowmaking machines. Meanwhile, at least 70,000 laborers — many of them migrant workers working seven days a week for as little as $500 a month — were shipped in to build more than a dozen venues, 20,000 new hotel rooms, new roads, bridges, and tunnels, a renovated airport, and new railway lines. There is also a more sinister reason why the budget will surpass even the $40 billion Beijing spent on the extravagant 2008 Summer Olympics.

What is that?

Corruption. “The Sochi Olympics are an unprecedented thieves’ caper,” says former deputy prime minister and opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. He claims that some $26 billion in phony costs may have been creamed off by contractors, many of whom are Putin cronies. Consider the new 31-mile road and railway that run from the beachfront town of Adler to the Krasnaya Polyana ski resort, overseen by Vladimir Yakunin, a former KGB general and Putin pal who heads Russian Railways. The new route into Sochi cost an estimated $8.7 billion — more than Vancouver spent staging the entire Winter Olympics in 2010. For that sum, calculated the Russian edition of Esquire, Russia could have paved the entire road with beluga caviar.

A waste of good caviar, that. But what this idiocy really reveals is the nauseating greed of the Olympic “movement.”

It’s important to know that the International Olympic Committee exists for one reason only: to make money for its members and cronies. The pious proclamations about the brotherhood of man and the “Olympic spirit” is a beard to mask the fact that all the marketing, broadcast rights, naming rights (“The Official Underarm Deodorant of the Olympic Games!”), and corporate partnerships are various ways to spread the wealth to favored clients and hangers-on. Some of the billions taken in by the IOC every four years goes to putting on the games. More goes to various Olympic organizing committees and national Olympic committees. But 10% is for “administrative costs.” Where does the other 90% go?

The IOC distributes some of Olympic marketing revenue to organisations throughout the Olympic Movement to support the staging of the Olympic Games and to promote the worldwide development of sport. The IOC retains approximately 10% of Olympic marketing revenue for the operational and administrative costs of governing the Olympic Movement.

The broadcast rights alone for Sochi brought in more than $4 billion, representing 47% of the take. That means that almost $8 billion is taken in by the IOC over a four-year period. That’s a lot of loose cash floating around.

But Sochi is a Putin project from start to finish. And besides the iffy weather, the poor accommodations for visitors, and the inevitable traffic problems associated with all Olympics, there is the near certainty that the games are going to be disrupted by a terrorist attack.

You wish not, but facts are facts:

Citing a new “surprise package” for Russia and Olympic spectators, Islamist militants in the North Caucasus Sunday launched a new threat to the Sochi Olympics with a purported “martyrdom” video by two suicide bombers who attacked a transit hub 400 miles away.

The video posted on a Chechen extremist site considered a credible platform for militant statements featured two unidentified men before the black flag of jihad and cradling AKMS rifles.

The duo — dressed in street clothes and without the usual trappings of jihadis — casually explained that Russians and those attending the Winter Games next month will not be safe as long as forces sent by President Vladimir Putin occupy the North Caucasus region near Sochi, Russia.

“We’ll have a surprise package for you,” one of the men said in the militants’ video. “And those tourists that will come to you, for them, too, we have a surprise. If it happens [the Olympics], we’ll have a surprise for you. This is for all the Muslim blood that is shed every day around the world, be it in Afghanistan, Somalia, Syria, all around the world. This will be our revenge.”

The new video posted online overnight showed news and security camera footage of two suicide bomb blasts late last month at a busy train station and a commuter trolley in the city of Volgograd, which is a major transit hub in Russia.

U.S. officials said they are studying the video.

The video comes one day before the Olympic torch relay is scheduled to go through Volgograd Monday.

Sochi proper might avoid an attack, but the periphery — like Volgograd — is vulnerable. They are already looking for a “Black Widow” female suicide bomber and it’s likely she won’t be the last.

The pro-gay rallies were recently thought to be the most controversy to be stirred by the games. By the end of the Olympic fortnight, they may end up being just a sideshow to the most expensive, corrupt, and dangerous Olympic games in history.