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- Press Release: The Circassians: Past, Present and Future – In Remembrance of Paul Henze and Kemal Karpat
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Monthly Archives: October 2013
Note: This is my 35th 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 firstname.lastname@example.org Allow me to express my thanks to all those who already have. Paul Goble
Volgograd Suicide Bombing Sparks New Concerns about Sochi Security. A suicide bombing of a bud in Volgograd that has claimed at least five lives has sparked concerns that this is the beginning of an Islamist-orchestrated series of attacks to embarrass President Vladimir Putin and the Russian government in advance of the Sochi Games and possibly force Moscow to move or cancel the Olympiad. Some of these theories were offered by Russian officials; other by commentators and experts in Russia and the West. And many of them were expressed in apocalyptic terms. There is as yet no definitive proof for them, although they do conform to what Russian observershave long said: anything that happens in the Caucasus or nearby will be linked to Sochi until the Olympics are completed. Moreover, there has been no shortage of militant attacks in recent month: 133 people were killed in theNorth Caucasus by them between July1st and September 30th, although these did not have the drama or attack the media attention that the Volgograd incident did. But the attention the Volgograd case has attracted guarantees that Moscow will increase security in and around Sochi still further with the confidence that most people will support such actions (bigcaucasus.com/video/2982.html,news.yahoo.com/russian-suicide-bus-bombing-sparks-terror-fears-sochi-235932616.html,abcnewsradioonline.com/world-news/olympic-security-concerns-loom-in-wake-of-bus-bombing.html, krivoe-zerkalo.ru/content/vzryv-v-volgograde-mozhet-nachat-olimpijskuyu-seriyu-terrora-0, tatar-centr.blogspot.com/2013/10/blog-post_23.html, kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/232085/, expert.ru/2013/10/22/teraktyi-mogut-sledovat-za-olimpijskim-ognem/, euronews.com/2013/10/22/suicide-bomb-on-bus-in-russia-raises-fears-of-sochi-2014-attacks/, cbsnews.com/8301-505263_162-57608636/russia-suicide-bombing-a-test-ahead-of-sochi-olympics/, en.ria.ru/crime/20131022/184291052/Suspected-Russian-Suicide-Bomber-Was-Moscow-Bound–Officials.html, kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/232085/, andtelegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/10394109/Suicide-bomb-on-bus-in-Russia-kills-five-ahead-of-Sochi-Olympics.html).
Moscow’s Massive Use of Force May Result in Terror-Free Olympiad But Cause More Violence Later, ICG Expert Says. By its heavy use of military force across the North Caucasus, Yekaterina Sokryanskaya, a specialist on the North Caucasus at the International Crisis Group, says, Moscow have ensured that the Olympiad itself will be “quiet” and that there will not be any terrorist incidents in the immediate facility. But that achievement, she adds, almost certainly will be followed by an upsurge in violence in the region after the Games end because Russia’s approach has exacerbated the situation there (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/232245/).
Moscow Increasing Pressure on Olympic Contractors to Complete Work. Despite frequent claims that everything is almost ready for the Olympiad, Moscow officials are stepping up the pressure on Olympic contractors to finish what they have started, something that an Austrian paper is adding to local “nervousness” and adding to the Olympic city’s problems. “Die Presse” says that officials are working hard to ensure security but have not been able to distract attention from turbulence in the area and widespread corruption in the Russian Federation (diepresse.com/home/wirtschaft/international/1466569/Sotschi_Im-Staube-ihres-Angesichts?from=suche.intern.portal).
European Football Body Wants Russian Team Punished for ‘Racist Behavior’ of Its Fans. UEFA has called for CSKA Moscow to be disciplined “for the racist behavior of [the team’s] fans.” The association took that step after Russian fans made racist remarks about Mancheteer City captain Yaya Toure, who is from Cote d’Ivoire, during a match the Russian side lost 2-1. Toure condemned the fans and the referee for failing to seek to stop the abuse (en.rsport.ru/football/20131024/696331909.html).
Kostroma Girl Burned by Olympic Torch… A YouTube video showing a 13-year-old girl in Kostroma being burned when the Olympic torch she was carrying went viral on the Internet. The clip showed a group of people in Sochi-2014 track suits rushing to her aid when the flame suddenly exploded (themoscowtimes.com/news/article/sochi-2014-official-denies-girl-was-burned-by-olympic-torch-video/488307.html and kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/232109/http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/232099/).
… But Russian Officials Deny What Photographs Show … Dmitry Chernyshenko, president of Russia’s Olympic Organizing Committee, denied the reports. He said that “what the media wrote is not true. No one sustained burns, there was no outburst of flame, and the alleged ’13-year-old girl’ is an adult employee of the Sochi-2014 committee’s law service.” He added that “the flame was too strong, so it was put out and rekindled in the right and proper manner” (voiceofrussia.com/news/2013_10_22/Allegations-of-Olympic-torch-burn-suffered-by-girl-not-confirmed-2645/)/
… Sparking Demands by Russian Politicians for Investigation … In the face of this latest failure of the Olympic torches to stay lit and work as intended, Michael Starshinov, a senior member of the People’s Front movement headed by President Vladimir Putin, said that “the assurances of the organizers that it is an ordinary situation when the flame is not lit are unconvincing. Any normal person would have several questions. Why were 16,000 Olympic torches made? How much does each torch cost? Is this price reasonable? And finally, why do they work badly?” (slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2013/10/09/russian_politicians_call_for_a_criminal_investigation_into_why_its_olympic.html).
… And Leading to Admission that Russia’s Torches Have Problems. Although he denied that the Kostroma incident happened as the picture showed, Roman Osin, a press officer for the Olympic torch operation, said that “we admit that the torches have definite problems.” There have been two incidents in which the torch has “exploded,” and they are being investigated so that the problem can be corrected (gazeta.ru/sport/news/2013/10/22/n_3271545.shtml).
Moscow Sends Russia’s Olympic Torch to North Pole … Reflecting President Vladimir Putin’s expansive claims about Russian control of the Arctic, Moscow has sent its Olympic torch to the North Pole. “In spite of everything the flame burned excellently,” organizing committee head Dmitry Chernyshenko said on Twitter. “The weather’s warm, just -15 [degrees].” The torch was carried to the pole from Murmansk by a nuclear-powered icebreaker (en.rsport.ru/olympics/20131020/695213814.html and vesti.ru/doc.html?id=1144117).
… But Faces Special Problems with Lack of Roads Along Torch Route. Organizers plan for the Olympic torch to pass through all 83 federal subjects of the Russian Federation on a course said to be 65,000 kilometers long. But because of a shortage of roads, they will have the torch carried not only by runners, cars and train but also by horse-drawn troikas and other traditional vehicles. Some observers say that it is a good thing that the country has a lot of Zippo lighters to ensure that the torch shows a flame when it is supposed to (versia.ru/articles/2013/oct/07/missiya_ognya and sobesednik.ru/node/108759).
Russian Supreme Court Upholds Kozak on Disposing Waste in Akhshtyr Crater. Despite a protest by Yabloko, Ecological Watch on the North Caucasus, and Sochi’s own Law and Order movement in Moscow, the Russian Supreme Court has rejected an appeal against the decision of Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak to allow contractors to dump trash in the Akhshtyr crater near Sochi. Environmentalists pointed out that the nature of the terrain there means that this action destroys one of the beauty spots of the region and directly threatens the safety of drinking water for the residents of the Olympic city (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/231917/).
Sochi Mayor Says District Heads Must Get Trash Problem Under Control. Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov who has been much criticized for failing to defend his city against the depradations of Olympic contractors has now directed the heads of the city’s districts to deal with the mounting piles of construction waste throughout the city. In addition to esthetic issues, the trash poses a risk to public health because rains carry heavy metals and other poisons from these heaps into the city’s water supply (sochi-24.ru/politika/glavy-rajonov-sochi-otvetyat-za-poryadok.20131024.69717.html).
Many Sochi Residents Won’t Get Water They Were Promised. Because Olympic construction required the replacement of seven kilometers of pipeline and because the pipes began to be installed only earlier this summer and not before many facilities were built, residents in the center of Sochi have not had hot water for “almost two months” and are unlikely to see it by the end of November as officials had promised. This shortcoming is in addition to daily power outages and gas disruptions and underscores that preparations for the Games are not nearly as far advanced as Moscow says. Many residents are not getting cold water either and have to rely on water trucks for their needs (sochi-24.ru/obshestvo/dva-mesyaca-v-centre-sochi-net-goryachej-vody.20131024.69725.html and kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/231961/).
Sochi Man Who Sewed His Mouth Shut Gets Back Pay as Do 30 Co-Workers. A Sochi worker who had not been paid for months took the dramatic step of sewing his mouth shut and staging a silent protest to get pay for himself and 30 of his colleagues. His actions not only forced Olympic employers to pay the men what they were owed – many workers in Sochi still have not been paid in a timely fashion, activists say – but also called attention to a problem endemic not only in the Olympic city but elsewhere in Russia as well. (blogsochi.ru/content/%C2%ABv-polnoi-mere-vyplachena-zadolzhennost-po-zarabotnoi-plate%C2%BB, itn.co.uk/World/87482/sochi-worker-sews-mouth-shut-in-pay-protest,kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/232021/, kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/232007/,expert.ru/2013/10/18/molchalivyij-protest-okazalsya-bolee-effektivnyim/?n=66995,sochi-24.ru/proishestviya/v-sochi-stroitel-zashil-sebe-rot-v-znak-protesta-.20131017.69424.html, kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/231892/,blogsochi.ru/content/pochemu-olimpiiskii-stroitel-zashil-sebe-rot,blogsochi.ru/content/prokuratura-initsiirovala-proverku-v-svyazi-s-piketom-olimpiiskogo-stroitelya, blogsochi.ru/content/olimpiiskii-stroitel-zashil-sebe-rot-i-obyavil-golodovku andbudetlyanin108.livejournal.com/240150.html).
Moscow Official Concedes Sochi Far from Ideal for Travel … Nikolay Asaul, deputy transportation minister, says that Sochi is a tightly restricted space, surrounded by the sea and mountains and without a complete road network. As a result, he advised that visitors should not use private cars during the Olympiad and said that Moscow’s imposition of strict limits on movement was fully justified (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/232244/).
… Sochi Residents Complain about New Traffic Patterns. Residents of a district in the center of Sochi are circulating a petition clamiing that officials have ignored their interests and needs and changed traffic patterns so that almost all of them need 90 minutes rather than 15 to do their errands by car (http://sochi-24.ru/obshestvo/zhiteli-donskoj-vyshli-na-shod-vedetsya-sbor-podpisej.20131022.69609.html and kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/232005/).
Chechen in Abkhazia Says Western Media Misinformed about Violence in North Caucasus. Eli-Solta Makhmatkhanov, a leader of the Chechen diaspora in Abkhazia, says that “the western mass media are disseminating false reports about the supposed threats to security at the upcoming Olympic Games in Sochi. He said that the region is far more secure than many make out (regnum.ru/news/polit/1721162.html).
Police Check 60,000 Migrants, Detain Many of Them, and Deport 3,000 from Krasnodar Kray. Kuban Governor Aleksandr Tkachev’s pledge to get rid of all illegal immigrants before the Olympic Games has led to a massive police operation in which more than 11,000 residences have been searched, 60,000 migrants stopped with many detained, and some 3,000 deported, of whom about half are from Sochi. Many of those detained are being kept in tent cities pending their expulsion. The police are now conducting sweeps through markets and businesses to see if there are more “illegals” about (sochinskie-novosti.com/2013/10/22/, sochi-24.ru/politika/tkachev-okolo-60-tysyach-nelegalnyh-migrantov-rastvorilis.20131024.69681.html, sochi-24.ru/proishestviya/sto-pyatdesyat-nelegalov-propisalis-v-odnoj-kvartire.20131024.69702.html, blogsochi.ru/content/iz-sochi-deportirovano-800-grazhdan-630-%E2%80%93-pomeshcheny-v-spetspriemniki and.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/232155/).
Officials Say Illegal Workers Spread Crime and Serious Diseases. In order to win support for what they are doing, Russian offiicials say that illegal gastarbeiters are not only responsible for many crimes – 700 in Sochiduring the last three months alone, they say – but also are spreading diseases like HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and syphilis (sochi-24.ru/obshestvo/na-kurort-pustili-migrantov-s-opasnymi-boleznyami.20131024.69701.html).
Sochi Residents, Tourists Among Those Arrested as Illegal Immigrants. The drive to round up and expel illegal gastarbeiters in and around Sochi is so broad that it has led to the arrest of legal residents and tourists, forcing local rights groups to take up their cause as well. Accordinng to one Russian tourist who was arrested in the sweep, the police squads ignored the documents he and others offered and took them to the station because of their “’ethnic’” looks. “Wewere just in Sochi for three days of vacation; how can they treat tourists like that?” He added, “I’ll nevergotoSochi again, even to the Olympics. The Olympics can go to hell” (sports.yahoo.com/news/olympic-city-sochi-under-fire-anti-migrant-drive-145047018–oly.html).
Special Security Measures Introduced at All Mayor Facilities in Sochi. Olympic organizers say that special security arrangements have been put in place at all venues and support facilities as well as hospitals and cultural facilities. These include surveillance cameras, metal detectors, and regular police patrols (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/232113/).
Border Security Zone Lifted as Other Security Measures Imposed. The FSB has lifted the border security regime that had governed Sochi and its regions up to now as officials have put in place new and tougher security arrangements in the city. The change allows a more differentiated approach with tighter security in some places than in others and with “forbidden zones” like the area along the Abkhaz border (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/232027/).
Olympic Rail Security Center Established at Adler Station. A special center to conduct security screenings of those arriving in Sochi by train has been set up in Adler station. The inspectors are supplemented by 492 video cameras in the station itself, and they will be backed up police at an additional 96 checkpoints, officials say. They add that Sochi’s security system has “already shown its effectiveness” by identifying and allowing for the confiscation of more than 800 guns and other dangerous items since the first of the year (itar-tasskuban.ru/news/article?type=city2014&i=49104).
Sochi Police Arrest More Drug Traffickers. Faced with what appears to be an upsurge in the sale of a variety of illegal drugs, Sochi police have arrested a group of eight people involved with selling a drug known as “spice.” The leader of the group had been a legitimate businessman, police say, but he decided he could make more money with little risk by supplying illegal drugs to the population there (blogsochi.ru/content/gruppa-sbytchikov-spaisa-likvidirovana).
Georgia Continues to Support Circassians. Despite suggestions that the change of Rgovernment in Tbilisi would change Georgia’s approach to the Circassians in fundamental ways, the Georgian authorities continue to support the Circassians, honoring one of their leaders, extending citizenship to more than 350 Circassians from the diaspora, hosting Circassian scholarly meetings, and supporting a center for Circassian activities (hekupsa.com/mnenie/r-kesh/1807-r-kesh-pozdravlenie-a-gabisoniya-s-nagrazhdeniem-gosudarstvenym-ordenom-gruzii,
Georgians Remain Divided on Sochi Boycott. The Georgian government continues to say that it will not take part in the Olympiad if Russia takes actions that insult and demean Georgia, but it says that there is no need to make a decision yet. As a result and because of political passions stirred by the presidential election there, people in Georgia continue to organize rallies and circulate petitions across the country for a boycott (dfwatch.net/in-georgia-rallies-continue-against-russian-policy-66378 and iwpr.net/report-news/georgians-agonise-over-sochi-olympics).
Russian Sports Minister Says Georgia Won’t Boycott Sochi. In what may be efforts to pressure Tbilisi, Vitaly Mutko, Russia’s minister for sports, said that he does not believe Georgia will boycott the games, and a commentator in the “Moscow Times” suggested that a Georgian boycott would be a bad idea (insidethegames.biz/olympics/winter-olympics/2014/1016546-exclusive-georgia-won-t-boycott-sochi-2014-claims-russian-sports-minister and themoscowtimes.com/opinion/article/georgian-boycott-of-olympics-is-a-bad-idea/488236.html).
Chechen in Abkhazia Says Western Media Misinformed about Violence in North Caucasus. Eli-Solta Makhmatkhanov, a leader of the Chechen diaspora in Abkhazia, says that “the western mass media are disseminating false reports about the supposed threats to security at the upcoming Olympic Games in Sochi. He said that the region is far more secure than many make out (regnum.ru/news/polit/1721162.html).
Independent Circassian Activists Say Pro-Sochi Comments Don’t Reflect Nation’s Attitudes. Independent Circassian activists in the Middle East, Europe and the United States as well as those in the North Caucasus say that a tour of Circassian “leaders” organized by Moscow and resulting in calls for the Sochi Games to go forward does not reflect the views of the Adygey nation. They say that the calls were completely scripted by Moscow and designed to detract attention from the genocide the Russians committed against their nation in 1864 in Sochi and to weaken the Circassian national movement (facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151988260150701&set=a.10151988432625701.1073741828.335082120700&type=1&theater and natpress.ru/index.php?newsid=8451).
Sochi Residents Launch Anti-Pakhomov Web Page. Sochi residents angry at Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov for what they see as his total disregard of their interests and involvement in widespread corruption have launched a webpage “Typical Pakhomov” (vk.com/typical_pahomic) to call attention to his actions and inactions and the gap between what he promises and what actually happens (blogsochi.ru/content/tipichnyi-pakhomov).
Olympiad and Paralympiad Will Be Invalid Friendly, Leader of Russia’s Deaf Says. Despite the fact that the Sochi authorities pushed the local blind society out of its longtime headquarters and that pictures on blogsochi.ru regularly show that Olympic facilities do not meet the standards for the handicapped that Moscow had pledged to observe, Stanislav Ivanovm vice president of the All-Russian Society of the Deaf, says that Sochi will be “a comfortable barrier-free milieu” for the handicapped (itar-tasskuban.ru/news/article?type=city2014&i=49166).
Multi-Child Families Demonstrate to Demand Land Alotments. More than 50 members of families with large numbers of children staged a demonstration in Sochi to demand that the authorities give them the land parcels that Russian law says they are entitled to but that local officials have not distributed. Participants said that Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov and his regimehad provided “insufficient support” to large families in other ways as well (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/232074/).
Russia’s Laws ‘Treat Homosexuals as Less than Human,’ Commentator Says. Gregory Koch, a columnist for Dailycampus.com, says that “it is true that Russia’s laws and practices treat homosexuals as less than human; it is true that this needs to change; [and] other nations should put pressure on Russia to change these laws.” But a boycott of the Sochi Games is “not the way to do so.” If gay athletes like New Zealand’s speed skater Blake Skjellerup take part and win, “then some Russian swill realiz that perfectly productive and normal human beings can be gay.” That will be “a much more powerful message” than not taking part (dailycampus.com/commentary/let-them-play-don-t-boycott-sochi-olympics-1.3098784#.UmguHRBcUUM).
Calls for Olympic Results to Be in Russian are ‘Pseudo-Patriotic,’ Moscow Sports Writer Says. Nikolay Yaremenko, former chief editor of Moscow’s Sports Radio, says that the calls by some Russians that all results at Sochi between Russian teams and others be listed in Russian and Cyrillic rather than as now in English and Latin script abbreviation like “Rus-Pol” for “Russia-Poland” are a shameful example of “pseudo-patriotism” and should be denounced rather than encouraged (echo.msk.ru/blog/iaremenko/1182576-echo/).
More Sochi Investors Demand that Moscow Bail Them Out. Private investors say they need the injection of more money from the Russian government if they are to make a profit and finish construction by December 25, the new completion date Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak has set, one almost 11 months later than Moscow originally pledged to the IOC. The investors say that they deserve more help because of the high cost of consturction in complexmountainous conditions, the underdeveloped engineering and transportation infrastructure, the lack of fixed specifications for many projects, inflation, and problems with labor supplies and construction materials. It remains unclear whether and how Moscow will do so, especially given the Russian government’s current budgetary constraints (expert.ru/2013/10/22/v-otvete-za-olimpiadu/?n=66995).
Cartoon of Olympic Skier Going Through Gates Defined by Terrorists Goes Viral. A cartoon showing a downhill skier going through gates formed by terrorists carrying guns and a backdrop of the Olympic rings as targets has gone viral since its appearance on a Turkish site (gusips.net/news/4109-kafkasyayi-temizleyin-olimpiyat-yapacagiz.html). Another cartoon, this one produced in Russia, shows Mishka, the Sochi symbol, as a stereotypical North Caucasian militant (casta.ru/main/pics/1276124276-olimpiyskiy-mishka-2014.html).
Krasnodar Kray Recruits Workers to Help Finish Landscaping in Sochi. The government of Krasnodar has called for 30 people to join with their own shovels and other tools a work group that will help finish landscaping around the Olympic sites in Sochi, yet another indication that Moscow is putting pressure on regional officials to finish and that construction is not quite as far along as the Russian government insists (yuga.ru/news/311066/).
Sochi Now Features ‘Concrete Rivers and Dirty Shorelines,’ Residents Say. Sochi residents say that contractors building Olympic facilities have been so careless that the rivers through the city are filled with concrete dust and the shorelines of these rivers are increasingly contaminated as a result. They have complained to prosecutors who have so far refused to confirm what the residents have provided pictures of (sochi-24.ru/obshestvo/-betonnye-reki-gryaznye-berega-.20131022.69579.html).
IMF Says End of Sochi Construction Will Hurt Economies of Moldova, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Because those three countries are the source of so many gastarbeiters in Sochi and because these workers are sending home a major portion of their wages, these countries will sufer economically once construction ends and the monetary transfers cease. According to the fund, there have been as many as 100,000 workers on Sochi construction sites over the past year, with as many as 70 percent being from beyond the borders of the Russian Federation (ria.ru/economy/20131022/971753521.html).
Sochi Residents Stockpiling Food and Water Because of Planned Travel Restrictions. Sochi residents who have “become accustomed not to trust the authorities” on anything are currently stockpiling food and water because they believe that Moscow’s plan to divide the city into two large security districts and 15 smaller ones with checkpoints at their borders will make it impossible for them to do any shopping during the Games. Officials say that such concerns are misplaced and that Sochi residents will be able to move about although they concede that the streets will be full and public transportation fully loaded (ng.ru/regions/2013-10-18/1_sochi.html and sochi-24.ru/obshestvo/predstavlena-informaciya-o-vydache-propuskov-na-transport.20131018.69466.html).
Russian Nationalist Calls for Moscow to Counter Foreign Criticism of Anti-Gay Law. Aleksey Pankin, a nationalist historian, says that the Russian government has failed to respond adequately to Western criticism of the law imposing penalties for “homosexual propaganda” directed toward young people. He calls the Western campaign a form of information homo-colonialism” and says that if Russia launches a major public diplomacy effort, it will find that it has many sympathetic supporters of the law in Western countries (stoletie.ru/politika/informacionnyj_gomokolonializm_268.htm).
Russian Central Bank Sells Three Kilo Gold Coin to Commemorate Sochi. Moscow has minted a three kilogram gold coin in honor of the 2014 Sochi Olympics, a coin that was sold to an anonymous buyer from the Russian Far East for 232,000 US dollars. The Central Bank will issue a total of 21 special coins made of silver, 13 of gold and three of non-ferrous metals for a total minting of some 50 million commemorative coins in all (en.ria.ru/sochi2014/20131018/184217794/Russian-Buys-66-Lbs-Sochi-Olympics-Gold-Coin-for-232000.html).
New Zealand to Appoint Special Diplomat to Deal with Russia’s Anti-Gay Law. At the suggestion of Labour MP Louisa Wall, New Zealand has announced that it will appoint a diplomat to ensure that citizens of New Zealand who participate in or attend as fans the Sochi Olympiad and Paralympics will not be targeted by Russian authorities under the terms of Moscow’s anti-gay law. New Zealand officials are especially concerned because one of the members of their Olympic team, speed skater Blaker Skjellerup, is openly gay (insidethegames.biz/olympics/winter-olympics/2014/1016574-new-zealand-to-appoint-special-diplomat-to-help-with-problems-over-anti-gay-law-at-sochi-2014).
Sochi Olympic Site Gets First Snow – A Dusting. The mountains where the Sochi Olympics will take place got their first snowfall of the 2013/14 winter, an event that has attracted attention only because it was so little and because Russian officials are so concerned about having enough snow next February that they are stockpiling snow in special refrigeration units (latimes.com/sports/sportsnow/la-sp-sn-sochi-snow-20131019,0,907237.story#axzz2iJWeFkbi).
George Takei Says IOC Failing to Uphold Olympic Charter. George Takei, an openly gay actor who has sought to have the Olympics moved from Sochi because of Russia’s anti-gay law but who opposes a boycott because of its consequences for competitors, says that “the International Olympic Committeeis spinelss. They need to have some backbone because they are charge with upholding the Olympic creed, and smething should be done with the membership of the IOC” (ontopmag.com/article.aspx?id=16732&MediaType=1&Category=22).
250,000 Sign Petition Calling on Coca Cola to Denounce Russia’s Anti-Gay Law. The SumOfUs.org virtual community has collected morethn 250,000 signatures on a petition calling on Coca Cola, one of the major sponsors of the Sochi Olympiad, to denounce Russia’s anti-gay law and practices (sportsmole.co.uk/off-the-pitch/olympics/news/olympic-sponsors-urged-to-condemn-anti-gay-laws_112849.html and action.sumofus.org/a/coke-russia-lgbt/4/5/?sub=fb).
Olympic Facilities Look Finished If You Don’t Go Inside, Sochi Residents Say. Sochi residents say that many firms which claim to have finished their Olympic projects have gotten away with it because few of those inspecting what they do go insie. Anyone who does, the residents say, will see instantly that the sites, including the Media Center that was supposed to be operational as of August 20th, are far from finished, and they provide videos showing just how much more work needs to be done (realty.newsru.com/article/18oct2013/sochi_nedostroy and blogsochi.ru/content/sochi-za-4-mesyatsa-do-olimpiady).
Openly Gay NBC Correspondent Heads to Moscow. Thomas Roberts, an openly gay NBC correspondent, says he will co-host his network’s coverag of the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and thus test Russia’s anti-gay laws. He said he agreed to go because showing up is “a huge, visible opportunity for LGBT people,” adding that “courage is contagious … We must be visible, we must show up, and, as Harvey Milk said,we must ‘give them hope’” (queerty.com/thomas-roberts-is-off-to-russia-despite-strict-antigay-laws-20131018/).
Russian Sports Minister Seeks to Lower Expectations for Russian Team. Vitaly Mutko, Russia’s minister for sports, says that there will not be any “miracles” at Sochi for the Russian team and that he will be pleased if Russia ranks near the top even if it does not win as many medals as host teams typically do (sochi-24.ru/sochi-2014/mutko-ob-olimpiade-v-sochi-chudes-ne-byvaet.20131015.69275.html).
Another Storm Destroys Sochi Sea Wall. Yet another fall storm destroyed the recently reconstructed sea wall in Sochi as well as downing trees and power lines, simultaneously adding to construction difficulties and underscoring how problematic the weather can be in that subtropical city nestled between the sea and the mountains of the North Caucasus (blogsochi.ru/content/ocherednoi-shtorm-v-ocherednoi-raz-razrushil-beregozashchitu-olimpiiskoi-derevni%E2%80%A6).
WINDOW ON EURASIA: SOCHI COUNTDOWN – 16 WEEKS TO THE OLYMPIAD IN THE NORTH CAUCASUS
Note: This is my 34th 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@gmal.com
US Said Planning to Use ‘Climate Weapon’ to Keep Sochi Too Warm for Winter Games. Two Russian intelligence officials say that the United States is planning to unleash a climate weapon to keep the weather in Sochi far above freezing and thus embarrass Russia. The story suggests that Moscow is looking for someone to blame if, as some meteorologists predict, the Winter Olympics in the subtropoics proves to be too warm for sports that require snow and ice (argumenti.ru/toptheme/n410/291408).
Sochi Organizers Already Have 30,000 Cubic Meters of Snow in Freezers. To ensure that there will be enough snow at Olympic venues, Sochi Games officials say they have already put 30,000 cubic meters of snow from last year and will make and put in 420,000 cubic meters more before the games begin (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/231780/).
22 Terrorist Actions in North Caucasus during the Last Year. Kavkaz-Uzel.ru, a news service that covers developments in the North Caucasus, says that there have been 22 terrorist incidents in the region over the last 12 months. It updates this chronology on a monthly basis (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/220120/).
Storms Show Sochi Must Prepare for Natural Disasters, Officials Say. The recent storms and resulting flooding show that “Sochi must be prepared” for such disasters, according to emergency situation officias meeting in Krasnodar. By the time of the games, there will be 1500 emergency services workers there backe up by 24,500 MVD troops and 10,000 other internal troops, officials said (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/231642/ and
Kozak Says Everything Will Be Ready in Time … Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak says that work on Olympic facilities is “practically completed” and will certainly be done on time. “Russians can be certain that everything with us is going according to plan” and that there will not be lines in February of the kind that visitors to Sochi now face (itar-tass.com/c534/910959.html).
… But Pictures Suggest a Different Conclusion. But pictures taken by residents and visitors suggest a very different conclusion. Buildings and roads are in many cases far from finished, and in some cases, there has been no progress for months. In the words of Blogsochi.ru, there is only one possible conclusion: those who promise that things will be ready will “not be able to deliver” (blogsochi.ru/content/ne-uspeyut andblogsochi.ru/content/krasnaya-polyana-12102013).
Georgians Call for Boycott. Georgians rallied, attended rock concerts, and circulated petitions across the country against participation in the Sochi Olympics because of what they described as Russia’s increasingly offensive approach to Georgia, including moving the border between South Osetia and Georgia proper deeper into Georgian territory and naming one of the Russians who attacked Georgia in August 2008 as an Olympic torchbearer (dfwatch.net/several-rallies-in-georgia-to-protest-against-russian-occupation-87446 andkavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/231738/).
Georgian PM Says Tblisi Will Boycott Games if Need Be to Avoid Humiliation. Georgan Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanshvili says that his country will boycott the Sochi Games “if we feel before the Games that the participation is humiliating for us,” but he added that there was no need to be “impulsive” about any decision because the government could announce a boycott at any time (uanews.com.ua/index.php?newsid=170, civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=26547and en.ria.ru/sochi2014/20131015/184150901/Georgian-PM-Says-Sochi-Olympics-Boycott-Possible.html).
To Make Way for Olympic Facilities, Housing Being Torn Down with People Inside. In the rush to complete construction, some Sochi housing is being torn down without ensuring that there are no people inside, something that has led to injuries. And even when residents are identified in advance, they are currently not being provided with any alternative arrangements. Officials say they lack the funds necessary to provide them (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/231584/, sochi-24.ru/obshestvo/v-sochi-snosyat-zhiloj-dom-vmeste-s-lyudmi-vnutri.20131011.69131.html, sochi-24.ru/obshestvo/v-sochi-snosyat-zhiloj-dom-vmeste-s-lyudmi-vnutri.20131011.69131.html, sochi-24.ru/obshestvo/olimpiada-vystavlyaet-na-ulicu-eshe-shest-semej.20131017.69409.html and http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/231765/).
Most LGBTs in Russia Have Suffered Because of Their Orientation. A new poll of more than 2,000 LGBT community members in Russia found that 53 percent had suffered psychological pressure, 15 percent physical violence, and 38 percent discrimination in the workplace. Those ho conducted it said that “the violation of human right and discrimination against the LGBTs iin this year has born a systematic and all-sided character. There is not one sphere of life in Russian society in which LGBTs have not been subject to discrimination.” Moreover, it found that only one LGBT in 20 has any trust in Russian law enforcement and that almost half – 45 percent – would “not in any circumstances” seek help from the police if they were attacked (rosbalt.ru/main/2013/10/15/1188131.html).
USOC Adds Ban on Discrimination on Basis of Sexual Orientation to Its Charter But Won’t Press Russia. The United States Olympic Committee voted to add “sexual orientation” to its non-discrimination policy but said that it won’t press Russia on this issue before Sochi. “The fact that we do not think it is our role to advocate for a change in the Russian law does not mean that we support the law, and we do not,” said USOC chief executive officer Scott Blackmun. The USOC expressed the hope that the IOC would update its charter in the near future (thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/u-s-olympic-committee-adds-sexual-orientation-to-its-code-of-conduct/news/2013/10/14/76835#.Ul6OrhBcUUN).
Passing of Olympic Torch Empties Russian Streets Rather than Fills Them. Russian officials have asked local businesses and schools to close on the day the Olympic torch passes through their cities and villages in order to allow people to watch its passing. But with few exceptions, most people have not done so but used the day off to attend to their own needs (chaskor.ru/article/estafeta_olimpijskogo_ognya_tula_33882).
Olympic Firms Still Not Paying Workers What They’re Owed. Many workers in Sochi are owed significant back wages because contractors have not paid them what they have earned. In at least one case, a firm tried to leave town without doing so, sparking the workers involved to stage a public protest (sochi-24.ru/proishestviya/v-sochi-stroitel-zashil-sebe-rot-v-znak-protesta-.20131017.69424.html, kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/231827/ andblogsochi.ru/content/olimpiiskii-stroitel-zashil-sebe-rot-i-obyavil-golodovku).
Russia’s Federation Council Calls for Cyber Defense at Sochi. Members of the upper house of the Russian parliament have called for the establishment of a cyber defense center to ward off possible hacker attacks, and they have urged recruiting “white hackers” to test the defenses of the city’s electronic infrastructure before the games (itar-tasskuban.ru/news/article?type=city2014&i=48906 and kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/231848/).
Olympic Mounted Police to Wear Jodhpurs. The mounted police who will be in evidence during the Sochi Games will be especially noticeable because they will be wearing jodhpurs, officials say (polit.ru/news/2013/10/17/galliffet/).
Contractual Obligations Mean Russia Won’t Shift to Winter Time Until After Olympics. In order to meet its obligations to broadcasters and to avoid further expenses, estimated at up to 300 million US dollars, the Russian government will not shift to winter time until after the completion of the Sochi Olympiad (nr2.ru/moskow/465430.html, kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/231516/ and en.ria.ru/sochi2014/20131011/184070531/Reverting-to-Winter-Time-for-Sochi-Would-Cost-Russia-300-M–.html).
Ecologists, Party Activists to Stage Protest in Moscow over Sochi’s Degradation. Roman Shikarev, a lawyer, says that human rights activists, environmental activists and representatives of Yabloko will be protesting in front of the main government building in Moscow October 18 to call attention to the ways in which Sochi has been transformed froma resort to an ecological catastrophe.Organizers say that it is “possible” Moscow officials have not heard about the problems with trash and damage from construction in the southern Russian city (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/231849/).
State Budgets Too Small Even to Record Environmental Destruction in Parks Near Sochi. Ecological Watch on the North Caucasus says that “neither the national park nor the administration of Krasnodark kray hs money for putting in order the land use documentation” that is essential to track species of plants and animals that are being put at risk or even threatened with extinction because of Olympic construction in areas which are supposed to be protected by law (ewnc.org/node/12904).
Picketing Banned Outside Putin Dacha in Sochi. Sochi residents have been told that it is illegal for them to picket at the entrance of President Vladimir Putin’s dacha there. Some—including a 75 year-old woman — had been doing so in order to try to attract his attention to the destruction that has been inflicted on them during Olympiad construction (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/231676/ and sochi-24.ru/obshestvo/starushku-zaderzhali-za-piket-vozle-bocharova-ruchya.20131015.69322.html).
Kozak Promises Circassians Their Culture Will Be Represented at Sochi… During a visit by 50 Circassian leaders from abroad organized by the Russian government, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak promises that Circassian elements will be “broadly represented” in the cultural program of the Sochi Olympics, a pledge that was welcomed by many of them (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/231844/).
… But Meetings Highlight Continuing Circassion Opposition to the Games as Such. A meeting between the 50 Circassians on the government-organized tour with Naim Neflayshev, a senior scholar at the Center for Civilizational and Regional Research of the Russian Academy of Sciences, called attention to opposition among Circassians to the Sochi Olympid. He told them that “the majority of Circassian organizations” in the North Caucasus support the games but acknowledged that three – the Circaassian Congress of Adygeya, the Circassian Congress of Kaardino-Balkaria, and the Circassian Congress of Karachayevo-Cherkessia – remin opposed, argying that the Olympiad must not be conducted where a genocide was conducted against their nation at the end of the Caucasus war (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/231844/). Consequently, despite much media ballyhoo, it seems unlikely that this latest effort by Moscow at neutralizing Circassian opinion has worked as intended (http://avrom-caucasus.livejournal.com/310997.html)
Circassians in Middle East and Europe Repeat Calls for Boycott. Circassian organizations in Jordan and Europe have repeated their calls to the International Olympic Committee to live up to its charter and not hold the games in Sochi, the site of the 1864 genocide of the Circassian nation. “We would like to make it clear that the Circassian people lost more than a million souls over a hundred years in defense of their historical territory, and several Circassian tribes became extinct like the tribes of Mequash, Natuhay, Zhaney and Ubyh, plus the displacement and expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Circassians to the Ottoman Empire through the port city of Sochi in particular” (natpress.ru/index.php?newsid=8430, facebook.com/groups/antisochi/permalink/609948792381202/ andfacebook.com/groups/antisochi/permalink/609998129042935/).
Sochi Games have Raised the Profile of the Circassians, Analyst Says. “The ‘Circassian question’ has acquired importance before the Olympiad in Sochi,” allowing Circassian groups to raise a variety of issues of concern to them, according to a Vestikavkaa.ru commentator. But “it is obvious that after the 2014 Games, this theme will to significant degree lose its importance” and the task of the Circassians in the future will be that much more difficult (vestikavkaza.ru/articles/CHerkesskie-prioritety.html).
Pussy Riot Group Calls for Boycotting Sochi. Saying that Russia’s anti-gay laws are intolerable,Yekaterina Samutsevich of the Pussy Riot activist group, told Britain’s “Independent” newspaper tht “the Olympiad could have become a source of national pride but tht now what is taking place can only be called right-wing fascism” and therefore should be boycotted by all (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/231842/).
Actress Sigourney Weaver Calls for Gay Protests at Sochi Games. Sigourney Weaver says that she is against boycotting the Sochi games because of all the athletes who have trained so hard to compete but believes that the Olympiad is “an excellent opportunity to make it clear how the world thinks” about Russia’s anti-gay laws. The Olympics could be “a great way for some, without trying to be shocking but trying to be exuberant, to show the world what it means to be gay: How can you resist that?” (www.ontopmag.com/article.aspx?id=16701&MediaType=1&Category=22).
10,000 Sochi Service Personnel to Receive Intensify Instruction in English. To handle the influx of visitors who do not speak Russian, Sochi organizers have organized special English-language courses for 10,000 people who will be working in service and support facilities (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/231790/).
Not Yet ‘Revolutionaries’ But Sochi Residents are Angry. Sochi residents have adopted an increasingly revolutionary tone in their discussion of plans for a meeting on October 19 to condemn the actions of city officials who have not protected them from the ravages of Olympic construction. Indeed, their anger is now so great that organiers have told them to leave their signs and weapons at home and to not do anything that could be an excuse for the police to move against them (blogsochi.ru/content/revolyutsiya-net-poka-tolko-miting). The residents of Kudepsta are so upset that they have decided to take things into their own hands and clean up the region because they do not believe that officials are going to pay any attention to their complaints (blogsochi.ru/content/kudepsta-ustala-ot-beskonechnogo-vranya-vlastei). And Sochi residents are also upset by the requirement imposed by Olympic organizers that they will have to carry out most of their business during nighttime hours rather than during the normal business day (sochi-24.ru/obshestvo/zhizn-sochi-perejdet-v-nochnoj-rezhim.20131011.69084.html).
Sochi Mayor Being Investigated by Moscow and Krasnodar Kray. Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov, who local residents say is both corrupt and insensitive to their concerns, is now being investigated by the Moscow and Krasnodar procuracies. The two have raided his offices and confiscated documents. No arrests have been made, but some in the city expect him to be sacrificed in order to put Moscow in a better light (blogsochi.ru/content/komu-grozit-nebo-v-kletochku).
Vladimir Pozner Refuses to Become Olympic Torch Bearer. Moscow journalist Vladimir Pozner has very publically refused an official offer that he serve as an Olympic torch bearer, organizers said (blogsochi.ru/content/pozner-otkazalsya-stat-fakelonostsem-estafety-sochi-2014).
Only Way to ‘Save’ Sochi Games is for Russian Officials to Stay Away. Commentator Says. Oleg Kozyrev says the only way to “save the Olympiad” is for Russian officials of all levels, up to and including President Vladimir Putin, to stay away from or at the very least remain in the background and let the athletes put on the show. If that happens, Russians can still be proud of the competition; if not, many of them will be ashamed (svpressa.ru/blogs/article/75793/).
Muslims in Sochi Mark Kurban Bayram in the Olympic Park. Lacking the facilities to pray inside, hundreds of Muslims, both natives and gastarbeiters, assembled in a grassy area in the Olympic Park for prayers on Kurban Bayram. In contrast to other Russian cities, there were no reports of clashes with non-Muslis (blogsochi.ru/content/kurban-bairam-v-sochi).
Russian Buses Made for Sochi Games Said Riddled with Defects. Despite their high price tag, the new buses specially manufactured for the Sochi Olympiad have many defects, some of which are clearly visible but others of which may make breakdowns far more likely (blogsochi.ru/content/bespokoistvo-beret-za-sudbu-sdelannogo-v-rossii-novogo-olimpiiskogo-avtobusa).
Russian Nationalists in Krasnodar Want Independent Druzhinniki; Officials Hope to Control Such Units. Russian nationalist groups want to establish their own druzhinniki units to patrol the kray, but MVD officials want these units to be part of the police system and thus at least nominally under the control of the government. It appears that both groups are having some success in their pursuit of their different goals, and it remains uncertain which will come out on top (sochinskie-novosti.com/2013/10/15/ ).
Electric Power Cut Off to Sochi Hospitals, Other Essential Services. The push to rebuild the city’s electric power grid has left many residents without power and water for many days, either because officials cut through power lines and pipelines or because they were rerouting them. Now this process has reached the point that some key social services, including hospitals, are being left without power (http://www.sochinskie-novosti.com/2013/10/14/ and sochi-24.ru/proishestviya/v-centre-sochi-poehal-grunt-povrezhden-vodovod.20131015.69298.html).
Chechnya to Spent 15 Million Rubles on Olympic Torch Run in Republic. Grozny has announced that it will spend 15 million rubles (500,000 US dollars) to spruce up the route that the Olympic torch will pass through Chechnya and for other activities associated with that action (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/231508/).
Russian Olympic Team Official Says She Hasn’t Set Medal Quota. Media reports to the contrary, Svetlanda Gladysheva, president of the Russian skiing and snowboarding federation, said that she has no plans to set a medal quota for Russian competitors. “I very much want the gold of these Games, but I do not know who it will be and in what discipline.” She added, “I have my own medal plan in my heart, but I’m not going to announce it” (sochi2014.rsport.ru/sochi2014_alpine/20131015/693904648.html).
Sochi Employers Given Suspended Sentences for Hiring Illegal Foreign Workers. A Sochi court has given suspended sentences to two businessmen for hiring without the necessary paperwork illegal foreign workers. Because the sentences were suspended, it is unclear how much of a deterrent they will be to others (sochi-24.ru/proishestviya/sochincam-dali-ugolovnyj-srok-za-nelegalnyh-migrantov.20131014.69213.html).
Cossacks Arrive in Sochi to Enforce Immigration Laws. A group of Cossack druzhinniki have arrived in Sochi to help police enforce laws against illegal gastarbeiters (sochinskie-novosti.com/2013/10/14/ ).
Sochi Port Hasn’t Been as Busy as Planned. Olimpstroy had planned for the Sochi port to process more than 14 million tons of cargo between 2010 and 2013, but so far it has handled only “a little more than three million tons,” a shortfall that has meant that the construction group has not earned the money it had counted on to pay back loans to Moscow banks (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/231666/).
Medvedev Urges Better Support for Sochi Investors. Responding to complaints from some oligarchs that they have not been compensated for their work on the Olympiad, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has called on his government to develop a program to ensure that they are (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/231637/).
Gay Activists Protest Russia’s Anti-LGBT Law at Met Opera. Some 100 activists from Queer Nation interrupted the opening of Pushkin’s “Eugene Onegin” at New York’s Metropolitan Opera to protest Russia’s anti-gay legislation and its impact on the Sochi Olympiad (wqxr.org/#!/story/review-protests-gowns-met-season-opens-eugene-onegin/).
Two Elkin Cartoons Make Fun of Russia’s Olympic Torch Problems. Two cartoons by Russia’s Elkin make fun of the Olympic torch run in Russia. One, calling attention to the fact that the torch keeps going out, shows a gas station attendant filling up the torch. Another, reflecting ethnic clashes in many parts of the country, shows a torch runner being surrounded by others carrying torches that clearly are going to be used not for the Olympics but to guide attacks on minorities (polit.ru/gallery/elkin/).
Sewage Spilling Out into Sochi Street. Because of problems with re-routing water and sewer lines, human waste has been spilling out into a major Sochi street, something passers by have noticed because of its “specific smell” (blogsochi.ru/content/zharkie-zimnie-tvoi-0).
Many More Russians May Get Pardons in Advance of Games. Moscow’s “Nezavisimaya gazeta” says that the biggest winners from the Sochi Olympics may be those in Russian prisons and camps, including political cases like Pussy Riot, Yukos, and the Bolotnoye affairs. President Vladimir Putin may increase the number of pardons to attract positive attention to himself in the run-up to the Olympiad (ng.ru/politics/2013-10-14/3_olimpiada.html).
Western Leaders Must Not Give Putin a Victory by Coming to Sochi, Kara-Murza Says. Commentator Vladimir Kara-Murza says that the West cannot do much to help Russia move toward democracy but that it “must not interfere.” And to avoid doing that, he says, Western leaders must not in any case give Russian President Vladimir Putin a victory by attending his pocket Olympics in Sochi (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=52565DBE507C5).
New Book Details Sochi Games Problems. A new book, edited by Bo Petersson and Karina Vamling, “The Sochi Predicament: Contexts, Characteristics and Challenges of the Olympic Winter Games in 2014” (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013) has now been released (mah.se/sochi2014).
UK Paralympian Says He’s Ready to Go to Jail to Protest Russia’s Anti-Gay Laws. Lee Pearson, who has 10 Paralympic equestrian gold medals and who is gay, says he is ready to go to jail if that will throw “a global spotlight on the violent crackdown on gay rights in Russia which followed the introduction of repressive laws by Putin’s government” (dailymail.co.uk/sport/othersports/article-2456391/Im-ready-to-prison-telling-Vladimir-Putin-anti-gay-laws-outrage-says-Lee-Pearson.html).
German Demonstrators Call for Boycott of Sochi Games. A demonstration in front of Berlin’s Reichschancellry called for Germany and other Western governments to boycott the Sochi Olympiad to protest Moscow’s increasingly repressive policies (orly74.livejournal.com/321112.html).
Russian Ecologist who Fled to Ukraine Says Sochi Preparations Inadequate. Sergey Volkov, who earlier served as a consultant for the Games but fled to Ukraine after his comments infuriated Moscow, said on the BBC that Moscow has neither protected the environment around Sochi as Olympic rules require or taken steps to ensure that there will not be natural disasters such as mudslides or building collapses during the games (aboutru.com/2013/10/olimpiada/).
Foreigners Dominate Bookings on Sochi’s Floating Hotels. Sixty percent of the cabins of the five cruise ships that will be used as floating hotels during the Sochi Games have already been booked. Foreigners have booked 60-70 percent of them, with Russians hiring the remainder, officials say (vesti-sochi.tv/olimpiada/20360-bolshe-poloviny-gostinic-na-vode-na-olimpiadu-uzhe-zabronirovany).
Olympic Torch Continues to Go Out. The Olympic torch continues to flame out as runners carry it through the Russian Federation. As a result, Nakanune.ru says, people along the route are now carrying matches to help relight it if that happens (nakanune.ru/news/2013/10/11/22327097/).
Sochi Police Deny Raiding Yabloko Office. In a case of “who are you going to believe, us or your own eyes?” Sochi police say they did not raid the kray offices of the Yabloko party despite the posting online of pictures showing that they had (sochinskie-novosti.com/2013/10/10/).
Trash Heap Near Sochi Likely to Poison City’s Water Supply. An illegal dump of waste at Akhshtyr is likely to poison the citys water supply because the pile of debris contains both heavy metals and other wastes that are likely to be carried into the aquifer by rain, ecologists warn (www.sochinskie-novosti.com/ ).
MSNBC’s Maddow Breaks with Parent Company on Sochi. Rachel Maddow denounced on her program Russia’s anti-LGBT laws, beginning the segment with a picture of one of the times when the Olympic torch went out on its journey out of Moscow. Journalists wondered how NBC, MSNBC’s parent company, will handle this given that it has paid 775 million US dollars for television rights to the Sochi games and 3.6 billion US dollars for subsequent Olympiads (news.gnom.es/news/maddow-breaks-with-nbc-what-are-we-saying-by-not-boycotting-sochi-olympics).
In Orwellian Comment, Russia’s Sports Minister Says Sochi’s Weakness is Its Strength. Vitaly Mutko said that the Sochi Olympics would be especially well organized because the city’s lackof any infrastructure when Moscow bid for the Games was “a weakness” that had become “its strength” because it allowed the Russian government to come up with what he said was “the most efficient Olympic city design” ever. In other comments, he said that he did not know of any country that was planning to boycott the competitions (france24.com/en/20131011-russia-says-no-sign-sochi-boycott and en.ria.ru/sochi2014/20131011/184072471/Russia-Vows-Best-Model-for-Sochi-2014-Olympics.html).
Russian Orthodox Church Says Olympic Flame has No Sacred Meaning. Responding to the complaints of some Russians that the Olympic ceremony and flame are pagan, Vladimir Legoyda, head of the Patriarchate’s information department, says that these things are “simply a spectacle” with no spiritual meaning (rus-obr.ru/ru-web/26855).
Boycotts Used to Reflect Geopolitical Struggles; Now, They’re about Gay Rights, Frolov Says. Russian commentator Vladimir Frolov says that a generation ago, Olympic boycotts were about things like Afghanistan, but now “the arena of the sharpest clash of civilizations has become the theme of single-sex love” (newizv.ru/sport/2013-10-11/190525-politika-snova-v-igre.html).
St. Petersburg Center to Prepare Northern Peoples Exhibits for Sochi. The State Polar Academy’s Center for the Support of the Preservation and Development of the Cultures of the Indigenous Peoples of Russia is preparing exhibits on Russia’s Northern Peoples for the Olympiad (raipon.info/novyj-tsentr-sodejstviya-sokhraneniyu-i-razvitiyu-kultury-korennykh-narodov-rossii-podgotovit-programmu-k-olimpiade-v-sochi.html).
“Россия” Not “Russia” Movement Organizes Protests across Russian Federation. A group that objects to having the name of the country displayed on Olympic uniforms in Latin script has organized protests in “more than 15 cities” across the country and sent petitions to the Russian Olympic Committee and Sports Ministry on the subject (politikus.ru/v-rossii/7298-v-rossii-proshla-akciya-rossiya-ne-rasha-s-trebovaniem-pisat-nazvanie-olimpiyskoy-sbornoy-po-russki.html).
Russian Government Blocked ‘Sochi Project’ Exhibit. A Moscow gallery had to cancel an exhibit by Dutch photographer Rob Hornstra and writer and filmmaker Arnold van Bruggen after the Russian government denied them visas (france24.com/en/20131010-moscow-gallery-cancels-sochi-show-after-visas-denied).
Athlete Ally, All Out Launch ‘Principle Six’ Campaign. Athlete Ally and All Out have launched a campaign named after the sixth provision of the Olympic Charter banning discrimination and have received declarations of support from 15 US Olympians. The groups say that the symbol and syllables P6, which could be worn as a sticker or woven into clothing could become something like the Livestrong bracelet, “a ubiquitous motif that doesn’t spell out a whole philosophy but has an unmistakable meaning and message” (olympictalk.nbcsports.com/2013/10/11/athlete-ally-gay-right-sochi-olympics/).
WINDOW ON EURASIA: SOCHI COUNTDOWN – 17 WEEKS TO THE OLYMPIAD IN THE NORTH CAUCASUS
Note: This is my 33rd 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 email@example.com Allow me to express my thanks to all those who already have. Paul Goble
Olympic Torch Goes Out At Least Four Times in Moscow. In the kind of unscripted event that can be far more embarrassing for a government than anything else because it can’t by definition be stage-managed, the Olympic torch went out at least four times in the Kremlin and then in the city of Moscow on television, threby calling attention to the corrupt ways in which the con,tract for the torches was let, the incautious statements by officials that nothing could go wrong, the greed of torchbearers who wanted to sell theirs online, the efforts of a lighter company to exploit the situation in its advertising, and apocalyptic suggestions that these proved that the Sochi Games were a mistake and a looming disaster (rusnovosti.ru/news/285204/,
navalny.livejournal.com/865844.html, blogsochi.ru/content/%C2%ABne-pogasnet-ni-pri-kakikh-obstoyatelstvakh%C2%BB, rus-obr.ru/days/26786,http://svpressa.ru/sport/article/75382/ kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/231305/,en.rsport.ru/olympics/20131008/692486627.
washingtonpost.com/world/europe/russias-olympic-torch-flames-out-again/2013/10/07/04198cba-2f5f-11e3-9ddd-bdd3022f66ee_story.html,regions.ru/news/2480071/, bfm.ru/news/232082?doctype=article,tvrain.ru/articles/olimpijskij_ogon_pogas_v_moskve_v_tretij_raz-353974/,newizv.ru/politics/2013-10-08/190332-olimpijskaja-zasada.html, tjournal.ru/paper/olympics-torch-ebay, insidethegames.biz/olympics/winter-olympics/2014/1016390-zippo-drop-cheeky-olympic-torch-facebook-campaign-after-accused-of-ambush-marketing and kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/231437/).
FSB to Conduct Unprecedented Surveillance at Sochi, Soldatov and Borogan Claim. Russia’s leading independent investigators of Moscow’s security agencies, Aleksandr Soldatov and Irina Borogan of Agentura.ru, say in a report that has attracted broad attention in Russia and Europe that the FSB is preparing to monitor athletes and visitors at the Sochi Games in unprecedented and highly invasive ways. Russian officials insist that security was even tighter at London and is required given the unsettled nature of the North Caucasus, but the Soldatov-Borogan report argues that the FSB is in a position technically and politically to do more than any security agency before it (agentura.ru/english/projects/Project_ID/sochi/gazeta.ru/social/2013/10/07/5695813.shtml,
Moscow’s Media Visit to Sochi Backfires. A Moscow-organized visit of Russian journalists to Sochi has backfired with almost all of them reporting that the city is a mess, that security is at absurd levels, and that it is unlikely to be ready in time for the Olympiad. Still worse, the journalists said that people are not welcome there, that the toilets recall those of Soviet times, and that Sochi hoteliers routinely award themselves several stars when they deserve none, comments that have been picked up by other Russian and international media (echo.msk.ru/blog/iaremenko/1173758-echo/).
Even Russian Orthodox Priests Now Cast Doubts on Sochi. Surveys of the religious in Russia have found that a significant number of Russian Orthodox priests think that the Sochi Games are a mistake and that the money being spent there could be better invested in human needs, an unexpected shift in opinion from a group that all too often has been willing to support whatever the Kremlin does and to justify it to their congregations (pravmir.ru/nuzhna-li-rossii-olimpiada-v-sochi-1/ and echo.msk.ru/blog/kuraev_andrey/1172028-echo/).
Moscow Provokes Georgia Into Reconsidering a Boycott of Sochi Games. The new Georgian government had signaled that Georgian athletes would attend the games unless Moscow politicized them, but that is just what Moscow has done in naming one of its heroes of the August 2008 war against Georgia as a bearer of the Olympic torch. That action, even more than Russian involvement in moving the South Osetian border, has reopened the issue of a boycott in Georgia. President Mikhail Saakashvili and others are now calling for one, a petition is being circulated demanding it, and protesters have burned the Russian flag and denounced the Russians as occupiers. Others in Tbilisi have appealed for calm, but Russian overreaching in this case may drive Georgia to a boycott after all (apsny.ge/2013/soc/1380855368.php, regnum.ru/news/polit/1716202.html,facebook.com/events/521524811250036/?fref=tck,newsgeorgia.ru/politics/20131007/215931012.html, kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5253EACED4DFC, dfwatch.net/petition-calling-on-georgia-to-boycott-sochi-olympics-73202, kavpolit.com/olimpijskoe-nespokojstvie-2/,
businessweek.com/news/2013-10-09/georgian-activists-seek-sochi-olympics-boycott-on-border-dispute and kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/231479/).
Moscow Already Embarrassing Itself on Disabilities Issue. Russian officials are concerned that they will not be able to fill the enormous Sochi venues for the Paralympics that follow the Winter Games (dyingrussia.wordpress.com/2013/10/06/will-russia-show-itself-disabled-in-sochi/). But whether that fear proves true – and it is worth noting that Moscow did not pursue hosting the Paralympics but was required to host them if it wanted the Olympiad – Russian officials have already embarrassed themselves in Sochi on a matter of importance to the disabled: they have closed that city’s office of the All-Russian Society of the Deaf, having given its officers only two days before being thrown into the streets (sochi-24.ru/obshestvo/departament-merii-sochi-poprosil-na-vyhod-invalidov.2013109.68986.html).
Tishkov Releases Documents Early to Counter Circassian Genocide Claims. Valery Tishkov, the director of the Moscow Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, has released a collection of documents on the Russian conquest of Circassian territories to counter Circassian suggestions that their nation was the victim of a genocide. The selected documents by themselves do not disprove what the Circassians have said, but their early release does suggest that Moscow is still very worried by Circassian activism (kavpolit.com/olimpiada-budet/ and kavkazoved.info/news/2013/10/04/pereselenie-cherkesov-v-osmanskuju-imperiu-po-materialam-rossijskih-arhivov-1860-1865.html).
Russian Officials Seek to Close Environmental Watch on the North Caucasus. Russian officials are misuing the courts and police raids to try to close down as “a foreign agent” the Environmental Watch on the North Caucasus, a group that has bedeviled Moscow by its reports of illegal actions involving the construction of Putin’s dacha there and other actions (facebook.com/notes/environmental-watch-on-north-caucasus/plainclothes-officers-hunt-for-ewnc-coordinator/10152000766863833 and ewnc.org/node/12762).
Officials Take a Differentiated Approach to Illegal Buildings. Ilegal buildings owned by those with connections to the powers that be are generally allowed to stand, while those whose owners lack such connections are torn down with much fanfare, a measure, Sochi residents believe, of the amount of corruption in their Olympic city (blogsochi.ru/content/izbiratelnyi-snos).
Sochi Officials Fail to Install Water Meters in Apartments. Construction of apartment buildings in Sochi has been so fast and haphazard that officials have failed to install required meters for each of the apartments in any particular complex. As a result, residents will have to pay a common amount, much as they did in Soviet times, but at far higher rates. This practice has led to widespread complaints (blogsochi.ru/content/bespredel-koshchunstva).
Despite Promises and Law, Olympic Contractors Continue Taking Sand from Mzymta River. Despite repeated promises to end the practice and existing Russian laws on environmental protection, Olympic contractors are continuing to dredge the Mzymta River for sand. “We had been so hoping for a miracle,” nearby residents say (blogsochi.ru/content/mzymta).
Main Olympic Stadium a ‘Disaster,’ Moscow News Says. With fewer than four months left to the opening of the Sochi Olympics, the Fisht Olympic Stadium is “a disaster,” according to Ivan Nechepurenko, a Moscow News journalist. Some of the problems have arisen because officials keep changing the plans; others reflect bad organizing; and still others reflect the fact that infrastructure is being put in after rather than before any construction took place.”They haven’t even started to paint the walls inside or lay floors on the concrete staircases,” said Aleksandr Valov, editor of local news website Blogsochi.ru. According to auditor Aleksandr Piskunov,
“contractors are deliberately procrastinating in order to create a situation in which the government will have to finish the project at any cost.” Such delays entail significant risks:
“if the stadium’s opening is delayed, the ceremony’s script will have to be changed, which will lead to immeasurable reputational and moral losses.” At present, officials are conducting rehearsals at the Bolshoy Ice Dome, even though it seats fewer than a quarter of the Fisht facility (themoscowtimes.com/olympic_coverage/article/with-4-months-left-main-sochi-stadium-a-disaster/487702.html).
Moscow Says Sochi Faciliies ‘Safe from Natural Disaster.’ In the wake of flooding that overwhelmed much of Sochi, mudslides and earthquakes, Russia’s emergency situations ministry issued a statement saying that its “interagency working group” has concluded that there is “a high degree of safety of Olympic facilities against natural threats”(voiceofrussia.com/news/2013_10_10/Sochi-Olympic-facilities-safe-against-natural-disasters-minister-2103/).
IOC Head Promises to Add Gay Rights to Olympic Charter – But Only After Sochi. In a letter to LGBT activists, Thomas Bach, the new head of the International Olympic Committee, called for a change in the Olympic Charter to include LGBT rights, but he said that such a change would come only after the Sochi Games and that his group could not challenge Russia’s anti-gay law. (slate.com/blogs/outward/2013/10/09/sochi_games_is_the_olympic_symbolism_machine_out_of_gas.html?wpisrc=burger_bar).
Sochi Man Arrested on Drugs and Weapons Charges. Sochi officials said they had arrested a 34-year-old resident for manufacturing and sale of illegal drugs and possession of illegal guns as well (sochinskie-novosti.com/2013/10/09/).
‘Persons Without Citizenship’ Equated to Foreigners in Russian Deportation Effort. Lawyers in Sochi say that those who do not have citizenship are being treated in exactly the same way as those who are citizens of a foreign state. They suffer one additional burden: they are sent to the countries that the Russian authorities believe they came from regardless of any evidence to the contrary (http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/231349/).
Caucasus Games Provide Athletes, Officials With Another Pre-Sochi Test. The fourth annual Caucasus Games, which this year took place in Pyatigorsk, provided both athletes and organizers to test their preparations for Sochi. Many of the competitors hope to go on to Sochi, and organizers said they would like to hold similar competitions in other regions of Russia, including the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District (kavpolit.com/pobedy-i-porazheniya-kavkazskix-igr/).
FSB Holds 15th Meeting on Sochi Security FSB director Aleksandr Bortnikov chaired the 15th meeting his agency has held on Sochi security since 2012 with its own officers and representatives of other force structures. He said that the perimeter of the Olympic park will be protected by video cameras and electronic warning devices (blogsochi.ru/content/nak-obsudil-mery-po-obespecheniyu-bezopasnosti-olimpiady-2014-v-sochi).
Voice of Russian Commentator Dismisses Concerns about FSB Spying at Sochi. Dmitry Babich, a political commentator for Voice of Russia, said that Russian and British stories about FSB “spying” on visitors to the Sochi Olympics are simply a rehash of “all the things that frighten a reader of the British and American mass media about Russia.” Moreover, he said, if Moscow analysts Andrey Soldatov and Irina Borogan were right in saying that the FSB was using “Stalinist methods.” If that were the case, Babich said, “the last people we would be reading all over the Western press would be [the two of them] because they would be in some other places described by Alexander Solzhenitsyn whom they dislike so much” (voiceofrussia.com/2013_10_09/Let-s-just-put-some-random-words-FSB-Sochi-spying-4373/).
Sochi Not ‘Triumph of the Will’ But Rather ‘Triumph of Corruption,’ Russian Journalist Says. Vladimir Gechaninov writes that those who compare Putin’s Sochi Games to Hitler’s in Berlin are mistaken because Hitler’s prompted films like Lili Riefenstahl’s “Triumph of the Will” while Putin’s are “a triumph of corruption and flunkeyism” (forum-msk.org/material/kompromat/10071464.html).
Sochi Represents Putin’s Effort to Find National Symbol for Russia, Moscow Commentator Says. Andrey Ivanov says that the Putin regime is “trying to find new national symbols” by organizing things like the sochi Olympics.” But he suggests that this effort is likely to fail because “no one knows” just what Russia now is (svpressa.ru/society/article/75464/).
Sochi Will Be Kremlin’s ‘Apogee of Shame,’ Russian Regionalist Site Says. Ingria.info, which serves as a site for the Ingermanland movement says that Sochi is nothing more than “a black hole” through which the Kremlin pours the money of Russians into the hands of its favored oligarchs. As such, it represents “the apogee of shame” of the current occupants of the Kremlin and “a Putin parody of the Evil Empire” (ingria.info/lenta/865-2013-10-08-10-38-07).
Ecologists Must Demand New Environmental Standards for Olympics, EWNC Lawyer Says. Yulia Genin, a lawyer for the Ecological Watch on the North Caucasus, says that “Olympic Games more often will take place in countries like Russia, China and Brasil where environmental compliance is weak. The damage might be irreparable. And it is high time for human rights and environmental NGOs to unite … At this point of human development, the Olympics is a hypocrisy. We need to change it. EWNC is already doing so. And it is not as difficult as it may seem: public can change giant Nike’s or Apple’s policies. Why are the Olympics any different? Massive media coverage, protests and legal tools are available for such change and support of organizations like EWNC” (sochiwatchdotorg.wordpress.com/2013/10/07/to-the-question-of-cracked-environmental-pillar-of-olympic-movement-oppression-of-environmental-watch-on-north-caucasus-by-russian-authorities-and-importance-of-this-environmental-ngo-in-protection-o/).
Medvedev’s Sochi Price Freeze Won’t Stop Increases, Experts Say. Businesses are already finding ways to work around the price freezes Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev called for in advance of the Sochi Games. Consequently, while his order may offer new possibilities for corruption, it will not halt price increases (newtimes.ru/articles/detail/72231/).
Russian Tradition of Lying Harms the Olympics, Moscow Commentator Says. Yevgeny Zubarev says that “the problem of the Sochi Olympic torches is not htat they go out. That has happened at other Olympiads. And it is not in their high cost: those for the London games cost more. The problem is in the habit of lying which has not left the representatives of the Russian elite, not is bureaucrats, not its businessmen, and not the journalists of government mass media” (rosbalt.ru/blogs/2013/10/08/1184819.html).
Russian-Ukrainian Boxing Match Shows How Raw Ethnic Feelings Are. A recent fight between Vladimir Klichko, a Ukrainian boxer, and Aleksandr Povetkin, a Russian one, and the reaction of Russian fans shows just how close to the surface ethnic tensions are and how a sports competition can enflame them into violence, according to a “Novaya gazeta” commentary (novayagazeta.ru/sports/60363.html and mn.ru/sports/20131006/358573353.html).
Sochi Residents Hope They Can Expel Kubantsy After Games. Sochi residents are upset about many people who have arrived to exploit the economic possibilities that the Olympic construction projects offer. Some of those are ethnic, but many are just regional. And among those Sochi residents would most like to see go away are people from the Kuban region (blogsochi.ru/content/nezavisimaya-gazeta-kubantsev-nadeyutsya-vytesnit-iz-sochi-posle-olimpiady).
‘Independent Journalism Forbidden’ in Sochi, Journalists Without Borders Says. The international media watchdog organization, Journalists without Borders, has begun a campaign to call attention to the increasing suppression of media freedom in the Russian Federation. The campaign is called “Independent Journalism – the Only Forbidden Form of Sport in Sochi” (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/231282/ and
Human Rights Watch Offers Alternative Olympic Torch Route in Russia. HRW has launched an online effort to call attention to human rights abuses in the Russian Federation by suggesting a map which moves not along the Olympic Torch route approved by the Kremlin but rather from one site of abuse to anther (hrw.org/sites/default/files/features/russia_sochi_map_2013/index.html and
Sochi Games Uniting Circassians, Activist Says. Despite or perhaps because of their opposition to holding the Olympics on the site of the Russian genocide against their nation 150 years ago, Circassians living in the North Caucasus and the countries of the Middle East and Europe are now more united than at any time since their expulsion from their homeland in 1864, according to a Circassian activist. That has created a new reality with which the Russian government will have to cope long after the Olympics are over, Merissa Khurma says (huffingtonpost.com/merissa-khurma/the-sochi-connection_b_4046063.html).
Rains Wash Out Road to Illegal Putin Dacha. Recent storms have wiped out the road to the site of the Putin dacha that is being illegaly constructed on the territory of the Caucasian nature preserve, according to Ecological Watch on the North Caucasus which has attracted international attention to this travesty of justice (sochi-24.ru/obshestvo/reka-shahe-smyvaet-dorogu-k-putinskomu-kurortu.2013107.68883.html).
In China, Corrupt Officials Get Punished; in Russia, They Get Protected, Sochi Activist Says. Roman Shirakyev compares the treatment of a Sochi official convicted of corruption with that of a Chinese official convicted of the same thing. In China, the corrupt official was sentenced to a long term in prison; in Russia, the official got off via appeal (blogsochi.ru/content/chem-otlichaetsya-kitai-ot-rossii).
Moscow Journalist Urges Russians to Buy Dachas in Spain, Not Sochi. Having just visited the Olympic city, Aleksandr Kolesnichenko, an editor at “Novyye izvestiya,” says that he has concluded that the situation in Sochi is so bad that anyone thinking about buying a vacation home should choose a site “somewhere in Bulgaria or Turkey or in Spain” before wasting his or her money in the southern Russian city (newizv.ru/society/2013-10-07/190228-pochemu-ja-ne-poehal-by-otdyhat-v-sochi.html).
Unlike Moscow 1980, Sochi 2014 is ‘Shameful Page’ in Russian History, Blogger Says. Nikolay Yaremenko, a former editor at Moscow’s Sports Radio, says that even though there was a boycott, the Moscow Games in 1980 were still a bright spot in the country’s history but adds that the Sochi Games next year promise to be “a shameful page of contemporary Russian history” even if there is no boycott. That is because the games feature all the problematic elements of the current Russian regime (echo.msk.ru/blog/iaremenko/1172284-echo/).
Canadian TV Airs Program on How Putin Won Sochi Games for Russia. The CBC showed “Putin’s Road to Sochi,” a two-hour examination of how Vladimir Putin, by means of intense personal lobbying, won the Olympiad for Russia. According to one reviewer, the program was “a jaunty, sardonic doc that will eventually knock you off your skates” (theglobeandmail.com/arts/television/the-story-of-how-sochi-got-the-olympics-will-knock-you-off-your-skates/article14680117/?cmpid=rss1).
Sochi Officials Stockpiling Blood and Medicine for Games. In order to be prepared, Sochi officials have begun stockpiling supplies of blood and medicines for the Sochi Games (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/231038/).
Police Block Circassian Action in Defense of Homeless Animals. The plight of homeless animals and the willingness of officials to kill rather than take care of them continues to rile people in the North Caucasus and elsewhere in Russia. A demonstration in Maykop on behalf of the rights of animals, however, as unable to begin before police moved in to confiscate the banners and signs of those taking part (ewnc.org/node/12776).
Greeks Protest Passing of Olympic Torch to Russia. Several dozen LGBT activists organized a peaceful demonstration in Athens against the passing of the Olympic torch to Russian officials. The protesters held signs saying “Homophobia is not int eh Olympic Spirit” and “Love is Not Propaganda” (msn.foxsports.com/olympics/story/athens-activists-protest-at-sochi-flame-passage-100513).
Sochi Officials Continue to Persecute Worker Who Complained of Beatings. Mardirov Demerchyan, a Sochi worker who said that he had not been paid by his employer and then was beaten by police when he did so, continues to face charges in the Olympic city. Officials have now charged him with making false accusations against the police despite photographs on the internet showing that he suffered a seirous beating (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/231089/).
US State Department Cautions LGBTs about Russia. On its web page about travel to the Russian Federation, the US Department of State says that “discrimination based on sexual orientation is widespread in Russia. Harassment, threats, and acts of violence targeting LGBT individuals have occurred. Government officials have been known to make derogatory comments about LGBT persons. In June 2013, the State Duma passed a law banning “the propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” to minors. Russian citizens found guilty of violating the law could face a fine of up to 100,000 rubles ($3,100). Foreign citizens face similar fines, up to 15 days in jail, and deportation. The law is vague as to what will be considered propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations. As a result, commentators have suggested that the law may make it a crime to promote LGBT equality in public. Violence against the LGBT community has increased sharply since the law was passed, including entrapment and torture of young gay men by neo-Nazi gangs and the murder of multiple individuals due to their sexual orientation. Many view this legislation as encouraging such violence, with the majority of attacks against members of the LGBT community going unreported” (travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1006.html#special_circumstance).
Moscow Blocks FIFA Investigator from Entering Russia. The Russian authorities have blocked FIFA’s chief investigator, Michael Garcia, from entering Russia as he examines voting procedures for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup competitions. It appears likely that the ban was imposed because of Garcia’s involvement witht the US prosecutor of Russian arms merchant Viktor Bout (http://www.sportsmole.co.uk/off-the-pitch/news/russia-ban-fifa-investigator-from-entering-country_108979.html).
Bolotnoye Case Could Be Continued Until After Sochi. Because of Western attention to Russia’s crackdown on all dissent, the case involving participants in the Bolotnoye protests may be continued until after the Sochi Olympiad in order to avoid providing supporters of such groups with yet another occasion to protest, lawyers say (svpressa.ru/politic/article/75217/).
Does Putin Secretly Wish for a Sochi Boycott? One Canadian blogger has suggested that Vladimir Putin may secretly hope for a boycott because it is the only way that Russia could run up a big medal count. As the blogger puts it, Russians are prepared to forgive Putin almost anything except a clear defeat (nasha-canada.livejournal.com/1343400.html Бойкот Олимпиады?..).
New Book on Sochi Genocide Out in Germany. A new book, “Der vergessene Volkermord: Sotschi und die Tragodie der Tscherkessen” by Manfred Quiring has been published in Germany and is available via Amazon.de (amazon.de/Der-vergessene-V%C3%B6lkermord-Trag%C3%B6die-Tscherkessen/dp/3861537338).
Roundup of Gastarbeiters in Sochi Continues ‘Like Clockwork,’ Officials Say. The roundup of illegal foreign workers in Sochi is going ahead “like clockwork,” those involved in its say, with the numbers now under detention before expulsion exceeding plans. But other observers note that this effort is spreading fear among the population and concerns about contractors about what will happen next, whether this crackdown will spread to other parts of Russia, and, more immediately, whether the departure of gastarbeiters will allow the Olympic contractors to finish on time (svpressa.ru/society/article/75242/,blogsochi.ru/content/kavkazskaya-politika-vydvorenie-migrantov-rabotaet-kak-chasy andsochinskie-novosti.com/%D0%BC%D0%B8%D0%B3%D1%80%D0%B0%D0%BD%D1%82-%D0%BA%D0%B0%D0%BA-%D1%83%D0%BB%D0%B8%D0%BA%D0%B0/).
Economic Conditions Seen Decaying in Sochi Region After Games. Despite Moscow’s suggestion that the Sochi Games will give a permanent boost to the economy of Sochi and the Noth Caucasus, a new study concludes that the number of entrepreneurs will decline in the Kuban by seven or eight percent in 2015 alone, an indication of further recession ahead (kuban.rbc.ru/krasnodar_freenews/04/10/2013/880489.shtml).
Russian Figure Skater Wants to Compete as Estonian at Sochi. Aleksandr Zaboyev wants to obtain Estonian citizenship and compete for that country along with his Estonian partner Natalya Zabiyakol. Zaboyev’s supporters are already preparing his application to do so (sochinskie-novosti.com/2013/10/04).
Olympic Torch to Be Accompanied Across Russia by Mobile Souvenir Shop. A mobile shop selling Olympic souvenirs will accompany the Olympic torch every step of its 27,000 kilometer course across the Russian Federation (vesti-sochi.tv/olimpiada/20180-sputnikom-olimpijskogo-ognja-stanet-mobilnyj-olimpijskij-magazin).
Sochi Games Point to End of Russian Federation Just as 1980 Moscow Games Did for USSR, Some Say. Russians have a penchant for the apocalyptic, and some of them say that the problems that have been revealed as well as those that have been exacerbated in the run-up to the Sochi Olympiad suggest this competition could easily anticipate the end of the Russian Federation just as the pomp and circumstance of the 1980 Moscow Games did for the Soviet Union (novayagazeta.ru/columns/60358.html and avrom-caucasus.livejournal.com/308876.html).
KRASNYA POLYANA – AZAMAT BESHTO
WINDOW ON EURASIA: SOCHI COUNTDOWN – 18 WEEKS TO THE OLYMPIAD IN THE NORTH CAUCASUS
Note: This is my 32nd 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 firstname.lastname@example.org Allow me to express my thanks to all those who already have. Paul Goble
New IOC Head Says Olympics ‘Aren’t a Marketplace’ for Demonstrations. International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said that the Olympics “aren’t a marketplace for demosntrations,” the clearest indication yet that the IOC will take the lead in preventing any protest actions in Sochi. The IOC’s task, he said, is “to protect the Olympic village. It cannot be a marketplace for demonstrations for all potential issues in the world, even if they are the best ones, maybe. Our world is diverse and the Games should be giving an eample that in spire of all differences of all controversies, people can live together and respect each other, and they are not there to create confrontation” (en.rsport.ru/olympics/20130929/691279435.html).
IOC Says It Has No Basis to Challenge Russian LGBT Law. Jean-Claude Killy, who led the IOC inspection team to Sochi, said that “the IOC doesn’t really have the right to discuss the laws in the country where the Olympic Games are organized. As long as the Olympic Charter is respected, we are satisfied, and that is the case” in Sochi. In other comments, he said the venues at Sochi were ready and predicted that the competition next February would be “fabulous.” Meanwhile, new IOC President Thomas Bach said that he accepts the assurances he has received from Moscow officials that controversy over Russia’s treatment of gays will not affect athletes at the game (articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-09-26/world/42404812_1_gay-russians-olympic-charter-sochi-winter-olympics andsports.nationalpost.com/2013/09/29/sochi-olympics-2014-new-ioc-president-says-russian-officials-have-assured-him-anti-gay-law-wont-affect-athletes/).
IOC Charter Meaningless if Russian Anti-Gay Law Doesn’t Violate It, Rights Activists Say. After IOC officials declared that Russia’s law on LGBT activism does not violate the Olympic Charter, human rights activists like Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said that “if this law doesn’t violate the IOC’s charter, then the charter is completel meaningless. The safety of millions of LGBT Russis and international travelers is at risk, and by all accounts the IOC has completely neglected its responsibility to Olympic athletes, sponsors and fans from around the world” (gmanetwork.com/news/story/328367/sports/othersports/ioc-says-sochi-set-for-games-russian-anti-gay-law-not-a-barrier).
Amnesty International Launches International Campaign to Call Attention to Rights Abuses in Russia. Declaring that the Olympic flame “casts light on the violation of human rights in Russia,” Amnesty International has called for an international campaign of demonstrations and petitions in the run-up to the Sochi Olympiad. Sergey Nikitin, head of AI’s Moscow office says that all groups who feel offended by the limitations on human rights that the Russian government has imposed need to support this effort (amnesty.org.ru/node/2599).
Human Rights Watch Protests Continuing Repressions against Migrant Workers in Sochi. Saying that it is “outrageous for the migrant workers who helped to build Sochi’s shinynew Olympic venues to be heredinto detention and deported,” Jane Buchanan, HRW’s associate director for Europe and Central Asia, called for the IOC to send “a clear message that these sweeps are completely unacceptable for an Olympic host city and that abusive detentions must stop immediately” (hrw.org/news/2013/10/02/russia-sochi-migrant-workers-targeted-expulsion).
Moscow Says Absence of Reference to Gay Rights in Its UN HR Resolution Result of Muslim Opposition. Aleksey Borodavkin, Russia’s permanent representative to the UN in Geneva, says that the resolution Moscow has succeeded in getting passed on “the Protection of Human rights via Sport and the Ideals of the Olympic Movement” by the UN Human Rights Council does not have any specific reference to gay rights because of objections to any such language by Muslim states. He said that the agreed upon language allowed the resolution to collect a record 130 countries in support (ng.ru/ideas/2013-10-02/6_olimpiada.html).
Russia Doesn’t Sign on to UN Declaration Against Discrimination Against Gays. Eleven countries, including the US, France, Israel and Japan, have signed a UN declaration against discrimination against those of non-traditional sexual orientation. Human Rights First welcomed the declaration. But among the countries that did not sign was the Russian Federation, the host of the Sochi Olympiad (bfm.ru/news/230736?doctype=news ).
Russian PM Complains Air Conditioners and WIFI Connections Don’t Work at Olympic Site. Speaking at the International Investment Forum, Dmitry Medvedev said that the buildings may be pretty but that the air conditioners don’t work and that there is no access to the Internet via WIFI, yet another indication that infrastructure needs have been neglected in the rush to put up high visibility building (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/212968/).
Putin Bears Final Responsibility for Sochi, Russian Sports Minister Says. Reacting to media suggestions that incoming Presidential Adminstration figure Igor Levitin is now the new “curator” for the Sochi Olympiad, Sports Minister Vitaly Mutkov told Grani.ru that “we don’t have a curator” because President Vladimir Putin is head of the Council for the Development of Physical Culture and Sport and thus has overall responsibility (grani.ru/tags/sochi/m.219591.html).
Foreigners Using Sochi to Rile Circassians Because Nationalism and Islamism Don’t Affect Them, Russian Says. According to a Russian commentator, groups in the United States and Georgia are seeking to use the Sochi Olympics as an issue to stir up the Circassians of the North Caucasus because that community has proven itself largely immune to nationalism and Islamism (kavkazoved.info/news/2013/10/04/kto-stoit-za-dvizheniem-nekotoryh-cherkesskih-aktivistov-protiv-olimpiady-v-sochi.html).
Russian PM Imposes Price Controls on Sochi. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has signedther an order banning price gouging by Sochi businesses during the Olympic Games (government.ru/docs/6628).
MVD Says It Won’t Require Sochi Residents to Register Vehicles. Earlier orders from Moscow had suggested that Sochi residents would have to register their cars and trucks in advance of the Sochi Olympiad, but an MVD spokesman says that they will not have to do so unless they are going to use them to go to or through Olympic venues. His statement comes after a series of protests by Sochi residents concerning this administrative requirement. He did not say exactly how those zones would be defined (vesti-sochi.tv/olimpiada/20151-akkreditacija-avto-na-vremja-igr-dlja-ezdy-po-gorodu-sochincam-ne-ponadobitsja).
German Olympic Uniforms to Feature Rainbow Colors. In a move that LGBT activists welcomed as a protest against Russia’s anti-LGBT laws but that German sports officials said had no such meaning, Germany’s Olympic participants will wear uniforms that feature the rainbow colors that many associate with the LGBT rights movement. Other countries are following suit: Canada, for example, has rainbow colored mittens for its participants and fans (latimes.com/sports/sportsnow/la-sp-sn-germany-olympics-uniforms-20131002,0,322006.story#axzz2gbFRKT3e).
Anger Growing in Sochi over Trash Heaps. Olympic contractors are dumping ever larger mountains of trash in open areas in and around Sochi, prompting complaints by Sochi residents who are not reassured by official promises that the construction waste will eventually be removed (blogsochi.ru/content/musornoe-delo-ilii-vnov-prodolzhaetsya-boi).
Russian Officials to Paint Only Visible Sides of Housing on Olympic Torch Route. Officials in Dmitrov, a city not far from Russia, say that they will paint only the sides of houses that Olympic torch runners and the media will see and that they cannot guarantee that all the houses will be painted the same color because of paint shortages, a statement that recalls the Soviet-era practice of sprucing up buildings along the routes foreign dignitaries would take and the tsarist-era practice universally known by the term “Potemkin villages.” Elsewhere along the route in Russia, officials say that streets will be closed and security enhanced to protect the runners (mk.ru/daily/hotnews/article/2013/10/01/923858-doma-dmitrova-vstretyat-olimpiyskiy-ogon-s-neprikryityim-tyilom.html andthemoscownews.com/local/20131003/191959443/Sochi-2014-torch-relay-to-bring-Moscow-to-a-standstill.html).
Masked Officers Make Unexplained Raid on Sochi Construction Firm. A group of heavily armed and masked officers conducted a raid against the offices of the Inzhstranstoy Corporation in Sochi. City officials could not provide any explanation although they did speculate that the masked men were looking for documents in a corruption probe (sochi-24.ru/proishestviya/k-olimpijskomu-podryadchiku-nagryanuli-maski-shou.2013102.68712.html).
Moscow to Spend Another 1.3 Billion US Dollars on Formula 1 Road in Sochi. The final cost of building a Grand Prix race track in sochi will be almost twice what Moscow officials had predicted earlier, and that will force the authorities to come up with yet another 1.3 billion US dollars to complete the work. The money is expected to be spent after the Sochi Olympiad (sochi-24.ru/ekonomika/stroitelstvo-trassy-formuly-1-podorozhalo-v-dva-raza.2013101.68673.html).
FSB Promises ‘Transparent’ Security Measures at Sochi. Aleksey Lavrishchev, head of the FSB department for Sochi safety, says that Russian security measures there will be “transparent” and will not transform that southern Russia city into “a concentration camp” as security measures did at the London Games. “Daily life inside [controlled] zones will be no different from normal” in Russia, he said. Tickets and a fan passport will be required for access to venues. And there will be “forbidden zones” accessible only on the basis of special peremission. The FSB officer also said there would be restrictions on protests but insisted that these did not constitute a violation of anyone’s human rights (en.rsport.ru/olympics/20131002/691304762.html,en.rian.ru/sports/20131002/183907404/Russia-to-Restrict-Movement-Protests-for-Security-at-Sochi.html, telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/10350618/Russia-says-Sochi-Winter-Olympics-will-avoid-London-2012s-concentration-camp.html, andrbth.ru/news/2013/10/02/fsb_sees_no_human_rights_violations_in_security_measures_at_sochi_olympi_30460.html).
Putin Says Russians Will Never Sacrifice Sovereignty for Better Life. Faced with growing complaints about cutbacks in pensions and other social supports and the argument in some media that these reductions in the standard of living of many Russians are linked to wasteful spending programs like Sochi, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russians will never sacrifice sovereignty for a better life (grani.ru/Politics/Russia/President/m.219640.html).
Sewage Contaminating Drinking Water in Sochi. As a result of both flooding and inadequate construction, sewage has contaminated the drinking water in many parts of Sochi, sparking angry outbursts from residents and efforts to track down the problem by officials. Moreover, it has sparked some dark humor there with Sochi residents saying that flood water were pumped from the roads to the squares and sewage was redirected from sewer lines to water lines (blogsochi.ru/content/ne-peite-kanalizatsionnye-stoki , blogsochi.ru/content/tretii-den-net-sveta-v-poselke-loo, globalvoicesonline.org/2013/10/01/dark-humor-reigns-as-russias-winter-olympics-city-floods/, and www.sochinskie-novosti.com/2013/09/27/).
Floods Showed Sochi Infrastructure Inadequate, Recovery Slowed by Official Indifference. An article in Moscow’s “Novyye izvestiya” says that the recent flooding in Sochi shows that the infrastructure of the city is completely inadequate to support a large number of visitors and that recovery from the storm has been slow because of official indifference and thievery and the continued insistence of Moscow officials that everything is fine and that the floods did not damage any Olympic venues (newizv.ru/society/2013-09-26/189676-nado-vyplyvat.html).
Ovechkin Won’t Speak Out on LGBT Issues. Despite calls by Valeriya Novodvorskaya and other Russian human rights activists that he use his status as a leading torchbearer for the Sochi Olympiad and denounce Moscow’s stance on LGBT issues, Alexander Ovechkiin says that he is “just a hockey player” and that speaking about that issue is “something for politicians” (reuters.com/article/2013/09/29/olympics-sochi-ovechkin-idUSL4N0HP06Q20130929 andargumenti.ru/live/2013/09/287260).
Some US Olympians Speak Out on Gay Laws, Others Remain Silent. Skiier Bode Miller says that Russia’s stance on LGBTs is “ignorant” and “absolutely embarrassing,” but other US Olympians said they preferred not to get involved on this issue expressing the hope that officials could work something out to protect everyone’s rights (www.chicagotribune.com/sports/olympics/sns-rt-us-olympics-sochi-miller-20130930,0,766949.story and latimes.com/sports/sportsnow/la-sp-sn-us-skaters-russian-antigay-laws-20130930,0,1701497.story#axzz2gP0AKe9r).
Russian Opposition TV Drops Saakashvili’s Reference at UN to Circassian Genocide. Speaking to the UN General Assembly, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said among other things that “the Georgian Parliament has recognized [in May, 2011] genocide of Circassian people – one of the most unknown and tragic pages of history of the world, when the whole nation was wiped out because their land was needed by the Russian Empire” (www.natpress.net/index.php?newsid=11298). But in its coverage of the Georgian leader’s speech, Moscow’s opposition television Dozhd dropped any mention of his remarks on that point, a measure of Russian sensitivities on that issue (aheku.org/news/society/4902).
Saakashvili Says Putin Using Anti-Gay Policies to Win Support in Former Soviet Space… Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili says that Russian President Vladimir Putin has “nothing to offer his former zone of influence; he has no soft power. So what he’ telling them is this: ‘OK, Europe s promising you much more, it’s a better market, they might give you subsidies, they might give you lots of new opportunities and openings. But what you should know is Europe is all about gay rights. If you go to Europe, your family values will be undermined, your traditions will be destroyed. So we as an Orthodox world should stick together” (buzzfeed.com/maxseddon/vladimir-putin-using-anti-gay-laws-to-build-influence-in-ex).
…and to Demean Georgia. Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili says that Moscow is using the games to demean Georgia and that Georgians and others should be asking themselves just what price the new government in Tbilisi may have paid to take part in those competitions after his government earlier had announced plans for a boycott (rosbalt.ru/exussr/2013/09/30/1181865.html).
Sochi’s Gay Scene Still Vibrant But Likely Heading for Decline. Although Sochi’s gay scene is far more vibrant than one might expect given Moscow’s anti-LGBT stance, many of those who had taken part of it in the past or who still do today are now focusing their attention on places outside the borders of the Russian Federation because of increasing hostility to LGBT people in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Most of those involved say that local officials are unlikely to move against it lest that spark protests in advance of the games (stltoday.com/news/national/amid-putin-s-crackdown-sochi-gay-scene-thrives/article_a537113e-05d0-5b17-9b68-6da8c6515062.html andhosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/E/EU_SOCHIS_GAY_SCENE?SITE=VALYD&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT ).
Russian Oligarch Complains Moscow Hasn’t Reimbursed Him for Sochi Expenses. Vladimir Potanin, head of Interros, says that the Russian authorities promised to pay him for the additional expenses he has incurred at the Rosa Khutor resort because of security requiremets imposed as a result of the Sochi Games but that so far Moscow has don’t paid him anything. Russian officials dismisses the claim saying that his resort is not an Olympic project and therefore expenses there do not have to be compensated by the government (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/230850/).
Russian Sports Commentator Says It’s Time to Stop Criticizing Sochi Preparations and Get Behind Team Russia. Stepan Chaushyan, a senior Russian sports commentator, says that the time has come to stop finding fault with this or that problem in Sochi and to get behind Team Russia and cheer it to victory at the Olympiad (aif.ru/opinion/935174).
Kasyanov Urges European Leaders to Stay Away from Sochi. Former Russian Prime Minsiter Mikhail Kasyanov says that European leaders should stop “embracing” Russian President Vladimir Putin and not come to the Sochi Olympiad lest they give him a propaganda victory (euroua.com/world/russia/2223-rossijskaya-oppozitsiya-prizyvaet-es-bojkotirovat-olimpiadu-v-sochi).
Russian Orthodox Object to Pagan Prayers at Olympic Flame Ceremony. Some Russian Orthodox clergy, including a few hierarchs, have complained about the prayers to Zeus offered at the Olympic flame lighting ceremony, but other say that this is just a tradition and does not constitute an insult to Christian believers (pravmir.ru/molitva-zevsu-yazycheskij-obryad-ili-prostaya-formalnos-1/).
Blogger Says Mishka has Deteriorated Since 1980. A Russian blogger has compared and contrasted the image of Mishka, the Olympic talisman both in 1980 and 2014, and concluded that the new Mishka is less athletic and more suspicious of others, thus symbolizing the trajectory of Russia over the last 34 years (vladkoretsky.livejournal.com/21397.html).
Dutch Critic of Sochi Denied a Russian Visa. Rob Hornstra, a Dutch journalist who has been working on the North Caucasus for five years, and who together with his colleague Arnold Van Bruggen, has prepared a series of critical reports about Sochi, has been denied a Russian visa. As part of their Sochi Project, the new men have prepared a book entitled “The Sochi Project: An Atlas of War and Tourism in the Caucasus” that will be released in November. According to the Huffington Post, the book “tells the story of imperial pleasure palaces converted to proletariat sanatoriums during seventy years of Soviet power and of the more recent transformation of the sub-tropical summer capital into a “world-class” winter capital. It tells the stories of everyday residents — karaoke singers, nightclub dancers, pensioners, veterans and resort workers — and the disappearance of their homes under the construction of an Olympian Potemkin village. It tells the story of ecologists concerned about the environmental effects of Putin’s vanity fair and of transvestites at Sochi’s only gay club – none of whom can be expect a warm welcome from an authoritarian regime that jails whistleblowers and human rights activists and overly open homosexuals. Most exceptionally, it also tells the story of life on the other side of the mountains from Sochi. This is a story of ethnic strife, disenfranchised minorities and families destroyed by ongoing conflict in the North Caucasus” (themoscowtimes.com/news/article/dutch-journalist-says-denied-entry-for-sochi-reporting/486846.html, huffingtonpost.com/elizabeth-kiem/post_5773_b_4024742.html andthesochiproject.org/shop/product/62/).
Turkish Journalist Detained, then Expelled from Sochi Airport. Fehim Tastekin, a Turkish journalist who has criticized the Sochi Olympics, was denied entry to the Russian Federation and then expelled from the country after waiting three days. He says that the authorities told him he could not return at any point during the next five years. According to Tastekin, he has reported that “the Olympic venue, Kbaada, is the plain where the armies of the czar paraded in victory after they massacred 50% of Circassians and deported 90% of the other half. The Russians call the area Krasnaya Polyana, or ‘Red Field.’ It is obvious why the color is red. Sochi takes its name from the annihilated Circassian tribe, the Shache. Sochi was the capital of the political commonwealth proclaimed by Western Caucasian peoples who kept up the resistance after the 1859 surrender of Imam Shamil. Sochi’s original possessors, the Ubykh people, were wiped out. In nearby Shapsugia, only 12,000 people are left today from the 600,000 indigenous people. That’s why the Circassians say ‘don’t play over the bones of our ancestors.’ What is especially offensive to the Circassians is that the Kuban Cossacks, the vanguard force of the czar, are used as the indigenous people theme in the Olympics” (al-monitor.com/pulse.politics/2013/09/sochi-olympics-russia-threat.html).
Petition Criticizing IOC on Russia’s LGBT Campaign Continues to Gain Support. The All Out online petition criticizing Moscow for its LGBT campaign and the IOC for failing to require the Russian government to live up to the Olympic Charter has now gained more than 68,000 signatures. The effort says that the IOC’s failure to press Russia on this suggests that for it, “lesbian, gay, bi and trans people just don’t count. Equality doesn’t work like that, so their position needs to be clear” (allout.org/en/actions/email-olympics-pres).
Ian McKellen Denounces IOC’s Deference to Moscow on LGBT Issues. British actor Sir Ian McKellen says the IOC’s conclusion that Russia’s approach to LGBT issues “doesn’t violate the Olympic Charter” is cruel and outrageous. It represents, he says, an effort by the IOC to avoid its responsibilities. “As a gay participant in the opening ceremony of the London Paralympics in 2012, I am angered by the International Olympics Committee’s announcement that harsh Russian anti-gay laws do not transgress its own Sixth Fundamental Principle of Olympism that “any form of discrimination is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic movement”. In Russia, it is now effectively illegal to speak about homosexuality in public. That means that openly gay visitors to Russia, including Olympians, are only welcome if they bring their closets with them. I agree with the Human Rights Campaign that ‘the IOC has completely neglected its responsibility to athletes, corporate sponsors, and fans’” (queerty.com/ian-mckellen-to-lgbt-athletes-attending-sochi-olympics-bring-your-closets-with-you-20130930/).
Animal Rights Activists to Protest Sochi Plans to Kill Homeless Animals. Animal rights activists plan to demonstrate in Krasnodar against the plans of officials in and around Sochi to kill homeless animals rather than protect them in shelters, according to Ecological Watch on the North Caucasus (ewnc.org/node/12695).
Sochi Residents Increasinglly Angry about the Future. Sochi residents say that Moscow has failed not only to build Olympic sites in a way that does not destroy the natural beauty of their city but has also failed to make reasonable plans for the future, leaving them to try to find a way to pay for the upkeep of these sites and otherwise cope with what some of the call the destruction of their home town (sochinskie-novosti.com/).
Russian Special Forces to Use Yamaha Vehicles, Dogs for Sochi Security. “Izvestiya” reports that the Russian special forces units in Sochi will have five Yamaha Viking 540 IV vehicles to help them provide security for the games. The paper says that Russian vehicles of the same class are not nearly as good (izvestia.ru/news/557915#ixzz2gS49VGZb). Guards will also make use of specially trained security dogs during the Games (vesti-sochi.tv/olimpiada/20066-chetveronogaja-ohrana-gotova-obespechit-bezopasnost-olimpiady).
Ukrainian TV Airs Program Critical of Sochi Games. Ukraines 1+1 channel broadcast a program saying that preparations for the Sochi Olympiad have been poorly planned and implemented, that water and sewage problems have been ignored, and that residents of the city are suffering as a result (blogsochi.ru/content/inosmi-blokadnyi-sochi-telekanal-%C2%AB11%C2%BB-ukraina).
Price Overruns Elsewhere in Russia Now Described as Following ‘Sochi Scenario.’Cost overruns at Sochi have been so large that people elsewhere in Russia are talking about the rising price tags for other projects as following “the Sochi scenario,” a measure of the ways in which events in Sochi are having an impact on Russian thinking more generally (ej.ru/?a=note&id=13334).
Moscow Said Playing Up Olympic Event in Greece to Distract Attention from Sochi Failures. Anatoly Baranov, the editor of FORUM.msk, says Moscow has played up the lighting of the Olympic flame in Greece as a way to district attention from its inability to clean up after the recent flooding and its failure to build Olympic facilities in a timely and safe manner (forum-msk.org/material/news/10062396.html). But media attention to the torch lighting ceremony generated a non-story, with many outlets reporting that the torch could not be lit on the first attempt. In fact, the first attempt, officials said, was not intended to light the torch (newizv.ru/lenta/2013-09-28/189798-fakel-sochi-2014-ne-zazhegsja-s-pervoj-popytki.html and novayagazeta.ru/news/128495.html).
FSB Changes Boundaries of Border Zone around Sochi. As part of its security arrangements for the Sochi Olympiad, Russia’s FSB security service has changed the boundaries of the border zone in Sochi, something that its officers say is intended to make things easier for visitors and residents butthat others suggest may complicate the lives of both (izvestia.ru/news/557818).
Communist Site Denounces Post-Olympic Plannning for Sochi. The South-Worker website says that Moscow has failed to build the Olympic sites with an eye for how they will be used after the games are over. As a result,it suggests, many of them will simply fall into disuse, an “irresponsile” crime given how much money Russia has spent on them and a terrible burden on local people and on those who will visit the Sochi area after March 2014 (south-worker.com/olimpiada-kak-simvol-bezotvetstvennosti-rossijskoj-vlasti/).
Moscow to Spend Another 230 Million US Dollars on Sochi. The Foreign Economic Bank of Moscow says that the Russian authorities will be spending yet another seven billion rubles (230 million US dollars) on several as yet unfished Sochi Olympiad projects (vesti-sochi.tv/olimpiada/20053-vjeb-vydelil-na-krasnopoljanskie-olimpijskie-obekty-eshhjo-7-mlrd-rublej).
Photos Show Sochi Builders Putting Up Concrete Block Wall without Cement. A Youtube clip shows workers in Sochi finishing up a construction project there by simply putting one concrete block on top of another without cementing them together and then covering them with stucco so that no one can see this violation of construction rules or speculate that almost anything could lead that wall to collapse (youtube.com/watch?feature=share&v=ufRbu4B02gQ&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DufRbu4B02gQ%26feature%3Dshare&app=desktop ).
Moscow’s Efforts to Save Sochi Beaches are In Fact Destroying Them. In the latest example of “we had to destroy the village to save it,” Russian ecologists say, Moscow’s efforts to “save” the beaches of Sochi are in fact destroying them and effectively closing beaches visitors to Sochi have used for decades (http://ewnc.org/node/12652).
Putin Wants Most of All to Avoid a Munich Scenario, Markedonov Says. Russian analyst Sergey Markedonov says that because President Vladimir Putin views the Sochi games as “a demonstration of the return of the Russian Federation to the top league of world politics,” he will do everything possible to prevent a terrorist attack at the time of the games like the Black September attack at the 1972 Munich Games, recognizing that such an attack could undercut his standing at home and abroad (ekhokavkaza.com/content/article/25121011.html).
Kasparov Says Putting Rainbow Flag on Coca-Cola Cans ‘Best Way’ to Ruin Putin’s Day. Games. Garry Kasparov, former world chess champion and Russian opposition figure, says that the best way to ruin Putin’s Olympiad is for Olympic sponsor Coca-Cola to put a rainbow flag on all of its cans to be sold to fans (businessinsider.com/garry-kasparov-gives-his-take-2014-olympics-in-sochi-2013-9).
Construction of Road to Putin Dacha Continues as Special Operation Violating Russian Law. Ecological Watch on the North Caucasus says that construction of a highway to Vladimir Putin’s personal dacha violates Russian laws in at least two ways. On the one hand, it is destroying key flora and fauna that are protected by Russian legislation. And on the other, to hide what is going on, the dacha is being misdescribed as a scientific center to distract official attention from any violations (sochi-24.ru/obshestvo/prodolzhaetsya-stroitelstvo-dorogi-k-kurortu-putina.2013927.68528.html).
Georgian PM Says Moscow’s Moving of South Osetian Border Connected to Sochi Games. Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili says that as far as he knows, “everything that I now happening involving the placement of barbed wire is related to the Olympics” rather than being about something else. He adds that Tbilisi is doing everything it can to promote security for the Olympiad, including arresting North Caucasians Moscow says with terrorist connections (civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=26490 ).
Moscow Plans to Close Ports in Sochi During Games. The Russian transportation ministry says that it is preparing to close access to the ports of Sochi and Gelendzhik during the games as as a security measure (sochi2014.rsport.ru/sochi2014_news/20130923/688987854.html).
Moscow May Allow Private Security Firms to Do Screenings at Sochi. The Duma is working with the Russian interior ministry to prepare a law that would allow private security firms to play a role in the inspection of the bags of visitors to the Sochi Games (themoscowtimes.com/news/article/new-bill-could-allow-private-security-to-search-visitors-bags-at-sochi-games/486397.html).