WINDOW ON EURASIA: SOCHI COUNTDOWN — 32 WEEKS TO THE OLYMPIAD IN THE NORTH CAUCASUS

Note:  This is my 18th 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 knowledge or information about this subject to send me references to the materials involved. My email address is paul.goble@gmail.com  Allow me to express my thanks to all those who already have. Paul Goble
Ever More Russians Question Sochi Olympiad Spending … A poll by the independent Levada Center found that 65 percent of Russians say Moscow’s spending in Sochi has been ineffective or was “simply being stolen. Only two percent said the money was being used very effectively (.themoscowtimes.com/olympic_coverage/article/poll-reveals-skepticism-over-olympic-spending/482423.html  and en.ria.ru/society/20130627/181907980/Most-Russians-Critical-of-Sochi-Olympic-Spending–Poll.html).
… And Ever Fewer of Them Say Sochi is a Source of Pride. Despite the Kremlin’s efforts to promote the Sochi Games as a source of pride, the share of Russians who say that they are proud about them about about the World Football Championship to be held in Russia has fallen from 68 percent last year to 61 percent this, according to the same Levada Center poll. Twenty-nine percent said these events did not give them any sense of pride (gazeta.ru/politics/2013/06/26_a_5394569.shtml).
Most Russian Still Afraid to Travel to North Caucasus, Moscow News Agency Says. Despite Moscow’s efforts to “rebrand” the Caucasus as a tourist destination, a Russian news agency says that “as in the past, the majority of Russians are concerned about travel to the Caucasus for skying or snowboardingbecause they, not without reason, suppose that ‘there people are shooting.’” Aleksandr Khloponin, the presidential plenipotentiary for the region, says that they should not be afraid but should come to enjoy the resorts officials and businessmen are building there (top.rbc.ru/economics/25/06/2013/863216.shtml and vestikavkaza.ru/news/KHloponin-pervyy-kurort-turisticheskogo-klastera-Severnogo-Kavkaza-otkroetsya-v-etom-godu.html).
Nemtsov Urges Sochi Residents to ‘Fight Fascism.’ Despite efforts by regional officials to prevent him from doing so, Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov appeared in Sochi to discuss his book on “The Winter Olympics in a Subtropical Zone” and to urge residents to stand up for their rights against what he described as “fascism” on the part of the authorities (sochinskie-novosti.com/%D0%BD%D0%B5%D0%BC%D1%86%D0%BE%D0%B2-%D0%BF%D1%80%D0%B8%D0%B7%D0%B2%D0%B0%D0%BB-%D1%81%D0%BE%D1%87%D0%B8%D0%BD%D1%86%D0%B5%D0%B2-%D0%B1%D0%BE%D1%80%D0%BE%D1%82%D1%8C%D1%81%D1%8F-%D1%81-%D1%84%D0%B0%D1%88%D0%B8%D0%B7%D0%BC%D0%BE%D0%BC/,http://blogsochi.ru/content/boris-nemtsov-v-sochi-prezentoval-razoblachitelnyi-doklad-ob-olimpiade and www.facebook.com/boris.nemtsov/posts/489426061126999).
Kremlin Working Hard to ‘Neutralize’ Circassian Issue, Israeli Analyst Says.Avraham Shmulyevich says that at present, “One of the main concerns of the Kremlin regarding the Olympiad is the neutralization of ‘the Circassian Theme.’” He said that Russian officials are working to disrupt Circassian efforts to bring the concerns of that community before the world and to distract the attention of the world from any efforts that Moscow cannot prevent (avrom-caucasus.livejournal.com/270304.html).
US Olympic Committee Offers Special High-Priced Packages for Sochi. To raise money for the American athletes, the US Olympic Committee is selling special packages for fans who want to attend the games in Sochi. The prices for such tours start at 10,000 US dollars and rise to more than 500,000 US dollars for the two-week competition (luxurytravelmagazine.com/news-articles/exclusive-packages-to-attend-the-winter-olympic-games-in-sochi-russia-19650.php).
Special Sochi Passes Will Become Good Souvenirs, Chernyshenko Says …  Dmitry Chernyshenko, the head of the Sochi 2014 organizing committee says that his group is going ahead with plans to require special spectator passes that will require fans to provide information “similar to what is requested when buying airplane tickets.”  According to Chernyshenko, “the spectator pass will help to ensure the secure, hospitable and friendly atmosphere of the Games in Sochi” and aftere the games “will be a memorable sourvenir” (sportsbusinessdaily.com/Global/Issues/2013/06/26/Olympics/Sochi-Tickets.aspx).
… Adding that “Sochi is the starting point for the whole world to believe in Russia.”Not only that, Chernyshenko says, the games will help Russians to “gain confidence that Russia is ready to implement large-scale projects,” (http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/sports-events-seen-as-catalyst-for-new-russia/482088.html).
Olympic Builders Continue to Despoil Environment, Activists Say.  The Ecological Watch on the North Caucasus says that the rush to complete Olympic venues and support facilities is causing builders to ignore environmental protection rules and contributing to the destruction of sensitive regions and the contamination of air, water and land. Meanwhile, the activists are seeking to save rare plans by relocating them out of the way of Olympic construction. Local residents confirm what the activists are saying (sochinskie-novosti.com/%D0%BE%D0%BB%D0%B8%D0%BC%D0%BF%D0%B8%D0%B9%D1%81%D0%BA%D0%B8%D0%B9-%D0%BE%D1%82%D0%B2%D0%B0%D0%BB-%D0%BA%D0%BE%D1%82%D0%BE%D1%80%D0%BE%D0%B3%D0%BE-%D0%BD%D0%B5%D1%82/ , blogsochi.ru/content/uchenye-peresadili-krasnoknizhnye-rasteniya-v-imeretinskoi-nizmennosti and sochinskie-novosti.com/%D1%81%D0%BF%D0%B0%D1%81%D1%82%D0%B8-%D1%88%D0%B0%D1%85%D0%B5-%D0%BF%D1%80%D0%BE%D1%82%D0%B8%D0%B2%D0%BE%D1%81%D1%82%D0%BE%D1%8F%D0%BD%D0%B8%D0%B5/).
Russian Finance Minister Says Moscow is Spending ‘Relatively Little’ on Sochi Games. Because most of the funds Moscow is spending in Sochi are for infrastructure that will be used long into the future, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov says, the Russian government is actually spending “relatively little” on the games themselves and that mostly for the opening and closing ceremonies (sochinskie-novosti.com/2013/06/25/%D1%81%D0%B8%D0%BB%D1%83%D0%B0%D0%BD%D0%BE%D0%B2-%D0%BD%D0%B0-%D0%BE%D0%BB%D0%B8%D0%BC%D0%BF%D0%B8%D0%B0%D0%B4%D1%83-%D0%B2-%D0%B1%D1%8E%D0%B4%D0%B6%D0%B5%D1%82%D0%B5-2014-%D0%B3%D0%BE%D0%B4%D0%B0-%D0%B7%D0%B0%D0%BB%D0%BE%D0%B6%D0%B5%D0%BD%D1%8B-%D0%BD%D0%B5%D0%B1%D0%BE%D0%BB%D1%8C%D1%88%D0%B8%D0%B5-%D0%B4%D0%B5%D0%BD%D1%8C%D0%B3%D0%B8/ Силуанов: На Олимпиаду в бюджете 2014 года заложены небольшие деньги).
Russian Interior Ministry Says Its Officers are Investigating Reports of Torture in Sochi. In response to a rising tide of media reports suggesting that police in Sochi had tortured Martiros Demerchyan, a Sochi resident, the Russian MVD has announced thatit is looking into the case (23.mvd.ru/news/item/1059491/ and sochi-24.ru/proishestviya/sochinskie-policejskie-pytali-cheloveka-lomom-v-zadnijprohod.2013619.64557.html).
Russians Will Win Gold Only after Restoration of National Sports System, Experts Say. At a Sochi conference on Sports and Medicine, the expert participants said  that the Russian Federation could expect to excel in the Olympics only if it restored the kind of national sports system the country had in Soviet times, improving both opportunities for participation at all levels throughout the country and facilities for medical treatment of athletes (24rus.ru/more.php?UID=98780).
UEFA Says North Caucasus Too Dangerous for Its Competitions.  The Working Group of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) says that the situation in the North Caucasus is still too unsettled for it to sanction competitions of its member teams there during the 2013-2014 period (www.apsny.ge/2013/soc/1372229604.php).
Israel’s Circassians Oppose Sochi Competition.  The small Circassian community of Israel is speaking out against the Sochi Olympiad and participation in it, according to the Jerusalem Post. The paper noted that “the Circassians consider themselves to be victims of an historic genocide and ethnic cleansing campaign, much like the Armenian remnant also living in the country” (jpost.com/Christian-In-Israel/Politics/Circassian-pride-and-pain-317767).
Duma Deputy Says Efforts to Block Sochi Olympiad Doomed to Failure.  Gadzimet Safaraliyev, chairman of the Russian parliament’s nationalities committee, says that attempts to block the Olympic Games in Sochi are “counter-productive” because they will “in any case take place.”  As far as the Circassians are concerned, organizers of the competition will give them the chance to put their “national-cultural characteristics” on display for the world to see. Moreover, Russia will show the international community that Circassians at one time lived on the site of the Winter Olympiad,” that they have been able to “preserve andincrease their historical, national and culturala rootes shoulder to should with the representatives of the other nationalities of our Motherland – multi-national Russia” (cir.rus4all.ru/exclusive/20130626/724197061.html).
Moscow Wants to Wrap up Bolotnaya Case Before Sochi Olympics, Lawyers Say. Sochi is affecting the scheduling of many things in Russia, and now there is evidence that it is affecting some high-profile legal cases. According to lawyers for the defendents in a case about protests against Vladimir Putin and his regime, the judges want to wrap up the process before the Sochi Games begin, presumably in order to avoid adverse publicity (kommersant.ru/doc/2220403).
Sochi Tour Guide Says Olympic Construction Has Left Him ‘Ashamed.’  A long-time tour guide in Sochi says the destruction of so much of his city has left him “ashamed.” The only thing he can still point to with pride, he says, is the views people have if they look beyond the buildings.  Those haven’t been destroyed yet. Other guides are talking about dangerous sidewalks, potholed streets, and burning buses (blogsochi.ru/content/kofe-po-sochinski and aheku.org/page-id-3587.html).
Moscow Uses Diplomatic Muscle to Prevent UNESCO from Discussing Sochi Problems. The Russian government has succeeded in preventing UNESCO from putting a discussion of environmental problems in and around Sochi on its agenda, using as its ally for this purpose the government of South Africa with which President Vladimir Putin has had intense discussions about the issue, according to media reports (http://www.natpress.ru/index.php?newsid=8315).
Lavrov Says Russian Citizens Now Fighting in Syria ‘Pose No Risk’ to Sochi.  Russian and international security agencies are making sure that “Russians fighting alongside rebels in Syria don’t pose a threat to the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi,” Russian Foreign Minsiter Sergey Lavrov says.  Bu he noted that “when this war is over. .. these guys wouldn’t be busy and they might look for some engagement” in their homeland (abcnews.go.com/International/t/story/russian-fm-rebels-pose-risk-sochi-19457128 ).
Conditions in Sochi Beyond Olympic Buildings are Like Haiti, Latynina Says.  Yuliya Latynina, a Moscow commentator, says that Moscow is very good at putting up facades where it wants to make an impression on outsiders, but Russians like herself know that just beyond those pretty displays are conditions that are like those in third world countries like Haiti (ehorussia.ru/new/node/7762).
Despite Promises, Moscow has Not Made Olympics Accessible for Those with Disabilities.  A wheelchair-bound resident in Sochi says that the Olympic sites and support facilities are not accessible for people like himself, despite Russian undertakings with the IOC that they would be. He provides photographs to back up his statement (blogsochi.ru/content/invalid-kolyasochnik-o-sanatorii-%C2%ABizvestiya%C2%BB).
Russian Tour Firm Offers Sochi Double Rooms from 150 to 270 USD a Night.  Saying that it was offering rooms for prices set by a Russian government decree, a Moscow tour firm says Russians can rent double rooms for 150 to 270 US dollars a night during the competition. But local people say that many tour firms and the hotels themselves already appear to be ignoring these limits (blogsochi.ru/content/otkryvaem-prodazhu-mest-v-otelyakh-na-daty-olimpiady).
‘Anyone Who Tries to Build in Sochi Within the Law Encounters Official Opposition,” Architect Says. Ovanes Zadikyan, a member of the Russian Architects Union and chairman of the Architects of the Black Sea Region partnership, says that officials in Sochi put up obstacles to anyone who tries to work within the law in order to put themselves in a position to profit when those who violate the law seek, as most do, subsequently to cover themselves with legality (.u-f.ru/Article/u201/2013/06/22/656845).
Russian Appeals Court Leaves Corruption Conviction in Place.  The conviction of Oleg Sheveyko, former architecture chief in Sochi. for corruption has been left in place by the Krasnodar appeals court, and Sochi residents say that they hope he will soon start serving his prison sentence that this decision will become “the first step to restoring order in the horde of bureaucrats headed by Mayor A.N. Pakhomov” (blogsochi.ru/content/oleg-sheveiko-osuzhden).
Sochi Residents Demonstrate Against Plans to Destroy Yet Another City Park. Sochi residents, angry that yet another one of their parks is about to be destroyed in the name of Olympic construction have organnied a picketand attracted the support of some but far from all local politicians (blogsochi.ru/content/lyudmila-shestak-o-planakh-stroitelstva-byuveta-v-zone-obshchego-polzovaniya).
Navratilova Says a Sochi Boycott Would Not Affect Russia’s Anti-Gay Legislation. Tennis star Martina Navratilova says that any boycott of the Sochi Olympics would have little chance of success in forcing Moscow to change its anti-gay legislation that she and others deplore (2014.info/news/navratilova-osuzhdaet-putina-no-ne-podderzhivaet-bojkot-olimpiady-2014/).
IOC Chief Praises Sochi Effort.  Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee, says that “hosting the 2014 Olympic Games has enabled Russia to create its first ever elite winter sports hub and is turning Sochi into a world-class, year-round business, tourist and athletic destination” and that “for the first time in Russia, a system of ‘green standards’ will be used during the construction of Olympic venues. Sochi will set an example of sustainable development for other cities in Russia to follow” (rbth.ru/news/2013/06/21/international_olympic_committee_sochi_is_a_world_center_of_winter_sports_27341.html).
Russian Prosecutors Acuse Perm Museum of Violating Trademark Laws in Poster Case. Having secured the dismissal of a Perm museum director for organizing an exhibit of anti-Sochi Games posters, Russian officials are now saying that they will bring charges against him and others for violation of trademark law for using the Olympic symbols without permission (vesti.ru/doc.html?id=1097148,  kasparov.ru/material.php?id=51C42C3B81538grani.ru/Politics/Russia/Regions/m.215948.html  and www.rus-obr.ru/ru-web/25024).
Reporters Without Borders Raises More Questions about Yarst Case.  The international media watchdog organization says that it is concerned by “all the inconsistencies and procedural violations” that have characterized Russian prosecution of Nikolai Yarst, who remains under house arrest in Sochi charged with illegal possession of drugs. “ The group asks “Why have there been contradictory versions of Yarst’s arrest? Has it been confirmed that his fingerprints were not on the envelope containing the drugs? Why did the police take a week to realize his clothes had traces of drugs and can that be considered evidence if those traces have now disappeared? And if he really was a drug addict, why would he have drugs in his car while on his way to a meeting with the police?” Meanwhile, Sochi police continue to harass him (en.rsf.org/russia-dubious-investigation-into-sochi-21-06-2013,44833.html and blogsochi.ru/content/sotrudnik-dps-sochi-provotsiruet-narushenie-pdd).
Olympic Construction Already ‘Na Remonte.’ Even before it can be finished, some Olympic construction sites are “under repair,” an indication that it was not built very well in the first place (blogsochi.ru/content/%C2%ABna-eti-tseli-bylo-potracheno-12-mln-800-tysyach-rublei%C2%BB ).
BlogSochi Now has 10,000 Subscribers.  Blogsochi.ru, which tracks developments in that city, now has 10,000 subscribers and is seeking more (blogsochi.ru/content/v-gruppe-blogsochi-uzhe-10-000-podpischikov).
Depardieu Plans to Make Sochi Comedy Film.  NBC News reports that the French actor who recently acquired Russian citizenship to avoid paying French taxes will star in a film about the Sochi Olympics that is tentatively titled “Sports without Borders.”  This low-budget effort, NBCsaid, “doesn’t quite remind us of famous Olympic film classics like The Cutting Edge,Miracle, or Cool Runnings [but] it’s probably going to be better than Blades of Glory,Pentathlon, and both Prefontaine biopics” (olympictalk.nbcsports.com/2013/06/21/sochi-olympics-comedy-already-in-the-works/).
Georgia May Seek to Host a Winter Olympics in 2022. Georgy Topadze, a Georgian parliamentarian, says that Tbilisi may make a bid to host the 2022 Winter Games, a step that Russia’s sports news agency said was “a case of keeping up with the neighbors” (en.rsort.ru/olympics/20130621/669385118).
Share Button

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *