Window on Eurasia: Sochi Countdown – One Week to the Olympiad in the North Caucasus
Note: This is my 49th 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
London Warns Terrorist Attacks in Russia ‘Very Likely’ Before or During Games.Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office says that terrorist attacks are “very likely to occur” in the Russian Federation before or during the Sochi Games. According to the BBC, “the FCO advises against all travel to Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan and the districts of Budyonnovsky, Levokumsky, Neftekumsky, Stepnovsky and Kursky in Stavropol Krai. It alsoadvises against all but essential travel to North Ossetia, Karachai-Cherkessia and Kabardino-Balkaria” (bbc.co.uk/news/uk-25907140).
Russian Physical Security Quite Good at Sochi, Experts Say, But Counter-Intelligence on Terrorism Questioned. Most Western experts and officials say that Russia has established good but not absolute physical security in Sochi and at the Olympic venues, but the unwillingness of Russia to share information raises questions about whether Moscow’s intelligence about terrorists is equal to the challenge that the Russian government faces, especially given the proclivity of terrorists to exploit international sports events and the “uptick” in security threats there that US officials have spoken of in recent days. Experts are also concerned about the implications of Russia’s rejection of significantly expanded cooperation with the US and the UK despite its being offered and the possibility that physical security in Sochi will lead terrorists to attack elsewhere(washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/fbi-efforts-to-assist-sochi-olympics-limited-by-russians/2014/01/24/7c17c6fe-8370-11e3-8099-9181471f7aaf_story.html, sportingnews.com/sport/story/2014-01-23/2014-sochi-olympics-threats-draw-tight-security-russian-security-massive, washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/fbi-efforts-to-assist-sochi-olympics-limited-by-russians/2014/01/24/7c17c6fe-8370-11e3-8099-9181471f7aaf_story.html, foxnews.com/world/2014/01/24/expert-area-around-sochi-olympics-almost-as-dangerous-as-iraq/,salon.com/2014/01/25/the_sochi_olympics_putins_shiny_new_surveillance_state/,
Russia Doesn’t Need NATO’s Help with Sochi Security, Lavrov Says. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says that Russia does not need assistance from NATO to provide security at Sochi. Moscow is full capable of doing so by itself (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237424/and kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237375/).
US-Russian Security Cooperation on Sochi Strictly Limited. The US Department of Defense and the Russian Ministry of Defense have agreed to maintain close contacts during the Sochi Olympiad, but Moscow has been unwilling to agree to large-scale American involvement in Sochi because of underlying mistrust between Moscow and Washington. There will be a small FBI presence in Moscow and Sochi, but experts say that the role of the US will be far more limited than it has been in other Olympiads over the last two decades. That has led some in Congress to express concern, although most who have spoken on this issue have expressed confidence that the games themselves will be safe (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237437/, blogs.cfr.org/zenko/2014/01/26/why-the-u-s-and-russia-wont-cooperate-to-protect-the-sochi-games/#cid=soc-twitter-at-blogs-why_the_us_and_russia_won8217t-012614, sports.yahoo.com/news/us-russia-tensions-flare-over-winter-olympics-security-033015622–oly.html, and thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/196435-king-no-guarantee-of-safety-for-olympians).
US Olympians Urged Not to Call Attention to Themselves. The US Olympic Committee has told its athletes to avoid wearing uniforms in public that identify themselves as Americans lest they attract the attention of terrorists. The US State Department says this is a normal precaution and does not reflect any finding that terrorists in the North Caucasus are targeting US citizens (echo.msk.ru/news/1244792-echo.html,washingtonpost.com/sports/olympics/sochi-2014-security-concerns-a-reality-for-us-olympians-and-their-families/2014/01/27/cca2f582-87a1-11e3-833c-33098f9e5267_story.html and fox4kc.com/2014/01/26/warning-to-u-s-athletes-no-olympic-uniform-outside-sochi-venues/).
Families of Some US Olympians Choose Not to Go to Sochi. Because of security concerns, some family members who would normally attend such competitions will not be going to Sochi. Those who are planning to attend say that security issues are never out of their minds but that they hope the Russians will be able to prevent any attack (scpr.org/news/2014/01/29/41876/sochi-2014-why-some-athletes-families-will-sit-out/ andcbsnews.com/news/more-us-olympians-tell-their-families-to-skip-sochi/).
Russian Sports Minister Acknowledges Sochi Not Ready. As the clock ticks down to the time of the opening ceremony on February 7, it is becoming harder and harder for Russian officials to maintain their stance that everything is ready. Some, like Mayor Pakhomov try, but most are backing away and using words like “almost” and “nearly.” But Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko has now acknowledged that “to be honest, not everything is” and that in some places, “there is more to do” (newizv.ru/sport/2014-01-29/196199-ministr-sporta-rf-vitalij-mutko.html). Evidence that there is a lot more to do, especially involving roads, sidewalks, hotels, and support facilities is provided by local reporting and extensive pictorial documentation, including blogsochi.ru/content/olimpiiskie-zadvorki-2, blogsochi.ru/content/10-dnei-do-mezhdunarodnogo-skandala-v-sochi, blogsochi.ru/content/predskazaniya-sochintsam-bezoblachnogo-zavtra-ot-kozaka-i-koe-chto-eshche, blogsochi.ru/content/olimpiiskii-slovar-nedelya-s-mariannoi-maksimoskoi, blogsochi.ru/content/olimpiiskii-dubler-za-12-dnei-do-igr,
privetsochi.ru/blog/photo/41107.html, privetsochi.ru/blog/sitiproblem/41082.html,privetsochi.ru/blog/news_sochi/41056.html and gorod.afisha.ru/changes/gorod-za-nedelyu-do-nachala-igr/).
Putin Said Using Olympiad to Solve Domestic and Foreign Policy Tasks. Islam Tekushev, the editor of the Prague-based “Caucasus Times,” says that it is clear that “the Olympiad in Sochi has become for the Kremlin a suitable pretext for the resolution of certain domestic and foreign policy tasks, above all the issues of societal mobilization and an increase in patriotism … and an expansion of its presence in the Caucasus and on the Black Sea. Putin’s Moscow has broadened its presence in Abkhazia and South Osetia” still further as a result of the games. Other analysts have made same point and suggested Putin may use the Games to attack Ukraine or somewhere else just as he did the Beijing Games in 2008 to attack Georgia (caucasustimes.com/article.asp?id=21243 andregnum.ru/news/polit/1759946.html).
Sochi Games Likely to Be Declared Successful If There is Snow But No Terrorism.A commentary in London’s “Spectator” newspaper said that “given the incredibly low expectations” that most people have for Sochi, “the Russian games may even be judged a success as long as the weather stays cold and no terrorist attack takes place.” But even if those conditions are met, the Games have “backfired” against Vladimir Putin because of the anger that many Russians feel about the cost and corruption involved and because of the opposition of many in the West to his “broader campaign against homosexuality.” This general lowering of expectations is reflected in articles which specify that things are fine in Sochi because the torch hasn’t gone out recently (spectator.co.uk/features/9126622/putins-pink-peril/ and privetsochi.ru/blog/Flood/41168.html).
IOC President Criticizes World Leaders for Not Coming to Sochi … Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee, criticized those world leaders who are refusing to come to the Sochi Games. They are politicizing something that should be about athletic competition. He acknowledged that “there had been many problems in Sochi but one must consider that the IOC has worked on them if they concern the Olympics. I call for a discussion based on facts,” he said (vedomosti.ru/sochi-2014/news/21879711/prezident-mok-raskritikoval-politikov).
… While Russia’s Chernyshenko Says 60 are Coming … Dmitry Chernyshenko, head of the Russian organizing committee, says that despite being some of the busiest people on earth, some 60 chiefs of state, heads of government, and senior national and international organization officials will be coming to Sochi. According to his count, that will be the greatest number ever to attend a Winter Olympiad (izvestia.ru/news/564547).
… And Complains Bach Didn’t Go Far Enough in Opposing Protests. Although the IOC’s Thomas Bach said that athletes should not engage in political demonstrations at the Olympics, Dmitry Chernyshenko, head of Russia’s organizing committee, said the IOC head should have gone further: “He might have mentioned that there is a rule 50 in the Olympic Charter which limits the expression of any propaganda during the Games,” Chernyshenko said. “I don’t think they (athletes) are allowed by the Charter to express those views that are not related to the sport at the press conference room.” He said that any athlete or visitor who felt he or she had to make a statement hould do so at the “Sochi speakers’ corner” some 7.5 miles away from the venues (mobile.reuters.com/article/idUSBREA0S13M20140129?irpc=932).
Many ‘Volunteers’ in Sochi are in Fact Security Officers. Many of the security officials working in Sochi are dressed as volunteers, the better to fit in but a possible explanation of what many see as the impolite and off-putting behavior of the volunteers. Many of the security personnel who have been brought in are living in Spartan conditions and are unhappy with their lot, according to Russian reporters (privetsochi.ru/blog/bred_sochi/41025.html andsvpressa.ru/politic/article/81157/?rtc=1).
Two Cows Wander through Sochi Olympic Village. Two unsupervised cows wandered into and out of the Olympic village prompting residents to ask “has anyone lost a cow?” (privetsochi.ru/blog/horses/40927.html and privetsochi.ru/blog/bred_sochi/41021.html).
Picture of Two Toilets in One Sochi Stall Goes Viral, Prompts Sharp Russian Reaction. A photograph taken by BBC correspondent Steve Rosenberg showing two toilets in a single stall in a Sochi facility went viral. Many Americans wondered what was going on, but many Russians viewed this as symbolic of much that is wrong with the Sochi Games. Russian officials only made it worse by putting out an implausible story about how these toilets were not connected and one of which was about to be moved (http://nypost.com/2014/01/29/russia-olympics-in-the-toilets/ andhttp://realty.newsru.com/article/23jan2014/olimptumby).
Both Supporters and Opponents of Sochi Games Drawing on 1980 Moscow Olympic Motifs. Both those who want the Sochi Games to be a big success and those who believe the preparations for the Olympics have undermined that possibility, experts say, are using many themes derived from their predecessors who either supported or opposed the Moscow Games 34 years ago. (buzzfeed.com/vinogrekov/the-art-of-an-olympic-boycott-moscow-1980-vs-soch-gzvy and svpressa.ru/society/article/81137/).
Torch Travails Continue and Intensify in the North Caucasus. The Olympic torch arrived in the North Caucasus where it not only suffered the same problems it faced in other parts of the Russian Federation including going out when it wasn’t supposed to, isolated protests on a variety of subjects, a heavy-handed security presence and a negative reaction by Russian bloggers to people doing the lezginka, something they had objected to earlier as well, but also some new ones in addition. Concerns about security led officials in several of the republics to reduce the length of the route the torch was carried, the number of bearers, and even the size of crowds. Elsewhere officials gave people the day off and ordered students, faculty and government officials to attend. Meanwhile, officials in Sochi itself were preparing for the torch’s arrival there by handing out detailed instructions to residents about how they are expected to behave when it does ( kavpolit.com/olimpijskomu-ognyu-ne-dadut-razgulyatsya-na-kavkaze/, sevkavportal.ru/news/pub/kultura/item/12805-plamya-olimpijskogo-ognya.html,sevkavportal.ru/news/pub/analitics/item/12749-vo-vladikavkaze-v-svyazi-.html, kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237410/, kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237358/,
kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237348/, kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237322/, kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237312/, kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237302/,
Harassment of Foreign Journalists in Sochi Increasing, Norwegian Reporter Says.Øystein Bogen, foreign affairs correspondent for TV2 in Norway, says that the experience of his crew in Sochi earlier this month when they were “stopped,arrested [and] detained more than six times in the course of 48 hours” is becoming increasingly common there. Police there said they suspected he was taking drugs and insisted tht he take a drug test. “I never imagined that any topic would be critical enough to provoke such a reaction,” he said (huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/29/journalist-olympics-sochi-detained-arrested_n_4690457.html).
Russian Authorities Increase Pressure on Opposition Activists in Rostov. Russian officials have fined one activist who held up a sign when the Olympic torch passed an have harassed others in a sign that the authorities hope to intimidate them (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237224/ and ewnc.org/node/13474).
Pakhomov Says ‘There are No Gays’ in Sochi. Speaking to the BBC, Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov said “we don’t have any gays” in the city but would welcome any among the athletes or fans who attend the games. His claim, undercut by the existence of gay clubs there, recalled the old Soviet line that “there is no sex in the USSR” and sparked widespread derision not only of Pakhomov but other official claims about Sochi (bbc.co.uk/news/uk-25675957, kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237273/, kasparov.ru/material.php?id=52E649913E6C1and kasparov.ru/material.php?id=52E5F1B450A5A).
Pakhomov Says Everything is Ready for the Olympiad Except for a Little Polishing. Despite widespread evidence to the contrary, Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov said on Russia Today that everything is ready for the opening of the games except for a little cleaning and polishing (privetsochi.ru/blog/politics_sochi/41165.html).
Sochi Not Ready for Paralympics Either. Photographs show that Sochi has not been transformed into the barrier free city it is supposed to be under Olympic rules. But officials are upbeat and say they will hand out special maps to participants and visitors to the Paralympics to guide them on their way (vesti-sochi.tv/olimpiada/22542-gostej-paralimpiady-sorientirujut-v-sochi-po-putevoditeljam, privetsochi.ru/blog/bred_sochi/41034.html and privetsochi.ru/blog/adler/40978.html).
Sochi Seen Leading to ‘Final Break’ between Russian People and Putin. Pavel Basanets, a Moscow commentator, says that the Olympiad will “begin the final break” between the authorities and the people, a prospect that frightens both because of the unpredictability that will entail (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=52E768A0139E0).
Russian Officials Using Fan Passports to Exclude Opposition Figures. Many have been concerned that Moscow’s requirement that all fans attending the Sochi Games have a “fan passport” would allow Moscow to collect information on a wide swath of people, but now more Russians are worried that the authorities are using these documents to exclude those who oppose the regime or who are in categories that Moscow assumes might be a problem (svpressa.ru/politic/article/81157/, kasparov.ru/material.php?id=52E4F6112A658 and
Navalny Launches Interactive Website on Waste, Fraud and Abuse at Sochi. Aleksey Navalny, a leading Russian opposition figure who has made his name by fighting corruption, has launched an interactive website detailing the massive waste, fraud and abuse at Sochi, with particular attention to the corruption and violation of rights these things have involved (foxnews.com/sports/2014/01/27/russian-activist-creates-sochi-olympics-corruption-website/,kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237352/, buzzfeed.com/maxseddon/eye-popping-excerpts-from-a-report-alleging-corruption-at, sochi.fbk.info/en/award/,in.reuters.com/article/2014/01/27/olympics-russia-cost-idINDEEA0Q0BC20140127 andblogsochi.ru/content/aleksei-navalnyi-o-tom-skolko-stoila-na-samom-dele-olimpiada-v-sochi).
Ukrainian Protesters Call for a Boycott of Sochi. A group of Ukrainians taking part in the anti-Yanukovich Maidan have called for the international community to “demonstrate solidarity with Ukrainians by boycotting the Sochi Olympic Games” because Russian “dictator Putin is heavily involved” in supporting the incumbent Ukrainian president’s repression of his own people. Meanwhile, an unconfirmed rumor is circulating that the NHL may decide its players should not go to Sochi because of security questions. Meanwhile, some Russian nationalists are saying that the West organized the Ukrainian demonstrations in order to take revenge on Putin for Sochi (facebook.com/vasyl.myroshnychenko/posts/10100113557531961:0, nhl.si.com/2014/01/28/top-line-would-nhl-skip-sochi-games-steven-stamkos-scare-more-links/ and rossiyanavsegda.ru/read/1676/).
Daghestani Salafis Told Not to Travel Beyond Their Republic While Sochi is in Progress. Salafi Muslims in Daghestan have been told by officials there not to travel beyond the borders of their home republic while the Olympics are in progress, a violation of the Russian Constitution but a step taken because the Salafis are often identified by Russian officials as jihadists (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237126/ and kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237126/).
Moscow Seeks to Coopt and Use Circassians as ‘Decoration’ at Sochi. Circassians overwhelmingly oppose the holding of the Olympics in Sochi because that was the site of the 1864 genocide visited upon their people, but both because the Olympic Charter requires the host country to acknowledge indigenous peoples and to counter Circassian calls for a boycott of the Sochi Games, Russian organizers are using some Circassian leaders who are prepared to cooperate and have invited them to attend the first three days of the Games. (At that time, the Russian hosts released a statement they claimed the group had made but which its members subsequently said they knew nothing about.) That invitation was extended to the Circassians who visited the North Caucasus on Moscow’s invitation last year. Circassians both in the diaspora and in the homeland doubt that the Russian authorities will allow them to play any but a scripted and “decorative” role (balcanicaucaso.org/eng/Regions-and-countries/Russia/Sochi-the-Circassian-factor-146582, vestnikkavkaza.net/m/a/50522,dimak.org/gencdusunceler/2014/1/22/dasporada-ykselen-gen-muhalafetn-moskova-nalk-zlenmler, natpress.ru/index.php?newsid=8661, vestnikkavkaza.net/m/a/50522, andnatpress.net/index.php?newsid=11993).
US Congressman Says Sochi Games Violate Memory of Circassian Victims. Representative Bill Pascell of New Jersey has issued a statement in support of the Circassians and their national aspirations. He asks colleagues to join him in recognizing those rights and also to find that Russia is continuing to violate them and insult the memory of the hundreds of thousands of Circassians who were killed in Sochi and the surrounding area 150 years ago (nosochi2014.com/campaign/statement-of-support-for-circassians-to-us-congress.php).
Russian Anti-Circassian Rhetoric Increasingly Harsh and Extreme. Ever more articles about the Circassian cause are appearing in the Russia media, and an increasing share of them are adopting intemperate language comparing supporters of the Circassians with the Nazis and denouncing as “myths” the genocide and the mistreatment of the Circassian nation by the Russian state. At the same time, ever more articles are appearing in Europe and the West recounting the tragic history of the Circassians (segodnia.ru/content/134469,keepingscore.blogs.time.com/2014/01/22/sochi-weird-facts/, natpress.ru/index.php?newsid=8669m caucasusforum.org/moscow-nalchik-impressions-of-the-young-opposition-rising-in-the-diaspora/,
Circassians Continue Actions in Memory of the Genocide. Circassians in the North Caucasus and in the diaspora continue to hold meetings on a weekly basis to mark 150thanniversary of the genocide visited upon their ancestors by Russian forces (nazaccent.ru/content/10348-cherkesskie-aktivisty-otkryli-god-skorbi-akciej.html).
Ground Water in Some Parts of Sochi Dangerous for Human Consumption. Environmental groups have called attention to the contamination of the ground water in parts of Sochi as a result of Olympic construction, and officials have in effect confirmed their worries by trucking in water for residents, although some of that alternative supply may have been the result of frequent water shut offs also occasioned by construction (rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/brent-patterson/2014/01/sochi-olympics-construction-endangers-local-water-resevoirs).
Sochi Residents Face New Problems. In addition to the problems they have faced over the past year, including but not limited to official malfeasance and harassment, the lack of reliableelectric, water and sewage services, the leakage of raw sewage into public spaces, the expulsion of more than 2000 from their homes, many of whom have gone uncompensated, and the destruction of already problematic infrastructure, this week Sochi residents faced some new problems: the closure of familiar markets, the rerouting of traffic, an increasing number of fences and barriers, the absence of police when residents called for them, and the risk that their pets might be killed if they somehow got out of the house without their owners being nearby. Not surprisingly, some Sochi residents are now saying that the Sochi Olympics have destroyed their city and that it may be “your” Olympiad it isn’t theirs (privetsochi.ru/blog/Flood/41088.html, privetsochi.ru/blog/news_sochi/41016.html,privetsochi.ru/blog/Criminal_Sochi/41000.html, blogsochi.ru/content/prazdnik-za-reshetkoi,sochivodokanal.ru/monitor/, blogsochi.ru/content/%C2%ABdobro%C2%BB-olimpiady,blogsochi.ru/content/pakhnushchii-sochi, blogsochi.ru/content/bezzashchitnye-kurorty-rossii, blogsochi.ru/content/transportnye-ogranicheniya-nachinayut-deistvovat-v-sochi-s-25-yanvarya, privetsochi.ru/blog/Vokrug_Sochi/41201.html,privetsochi.ru/blog/auto_sochi/41119.html privetsochi.ru/blog/sitiproblem/41112.html,
Trash Heaps Rising in Sochi as Builders Rush to Dump and Hide Construction Waste. Wherever they look and often where they don’t expect it, Sochi residents are encountering rising piles of trash from Olympic construction as builders try to meet the opening deadline (blogsochi.ru/content/internet-vsetaki-sila, blogsochi.ru/content/musornyi-khaos-nakanune-igr, blogsochi.ru/content/dvory-olimpiiskogo-goroda-kurorta-sochiprivetsochi.ru/blog/bred_sochi/41144.html, privetsochi.ru/blog/bred_sochi/41129.html,privetsochi.ru/blog/adler/41072.html,
privetsochi.ru/blog/Vokrug_Sochi/41033.html,privetsochi.ru/blog/bred_sochi/41001.html and http://www.privetsochi.ru/blog/eco-sochi/40997.html).
Sochi Officials Putting Out Poison to Kill Stray Dogs and Cats. Sochi officials, although they have not been willing to confirm this, are putting out poison to kill homeless animals or those which are unfortunate enough to get out of their homes without a human partner. Animal rights activists are furious not only because officials have not kept their promises to build a shelter but because of the indiscriminate and cruel means they are using to remove the animals from the streets. One activist has distributed a guide on what to do if a pet is inadvertently poisoned as a result (svoboda.org/content/article/25235016.html, kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237381/, privetsochi.ru/blog/vet/41101.html and triboona.ru/posts/view/701).
Cartoons Against Sochi Become Sharper. Those who are angry about the Olympiad and Vladimir Putin’s policies are increasingly drawing and disseminating cartoons to make their point. Among the best this week was one showing Putin surrounded by security guards doing a snow angel and another showing Russian police using a bomb sniffing dog and a gay sniffing dog to ferret out “enemies.” Another popular way of making such points are posters like one tht says “Friends don’t let friends go to Sochi” (facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=569289726495629&set=a.200485616709377.46743.156326144458658&type=1&theater, tulsaworld.com/opinion/syndicatedcartoons/sochi-security/article_758e2f62-8735-11e3-a514-001a4bcf6878.html?mode=image&photo=0,
Ruble’s Fall Could Boost Foreign Attendance at Sochi. The head of the Russian tourism organization says that the fall of the ruble will make coming to Sochi less expensive for foreigners and thus may boost attendance, but other Russian officials say that the Olympics will lead to an upward correction in the value of the Russian currency relative to others (bloomberg.com/news/2014-01-24/putin-s-sochi-olympics-to-boost-oversold-ruble-market-reversal.html and http://vesti-sochi.tv/olimpiada/22582-glava-rosturizma-snizhenie-kursa-rublja-sprovociruet-rost-interesa-k-rossijskim-kurortam-v-tom-chisle-sochi-).
Voice of Russia Says Advertising of Sochi Sets Record for All Olympics. The Voice of Russia said that “the total values of contracts with sponsors, suppliers, and licensees” amounts to “almost half a trillion dollars [sic].” (That would be 500 billion dollars or ten times the amount even critics say the games cost and is almost certainly a misprint. The network probably meant rubles in which case the amount would be 16 billion US dollars.) That amount, it said, “is an all-time record not only for Winter but also for Summer Olympic Games.” Andrey Mamontov, a Russian marketing expert, said that “of course, advertising contracts will not cover all expendituresfor the preparation for the Olympics, but they may bring a substantial income”(voiceofrussia.com/news/2014_01_30/Sochi-Olympics-sets-advertising-record-9640/).
Sochi Merchandise Not Selling as Well as Predicted. The Russian Olympic organizing committee will receive only about 30 million US dollars from its licensing of Olympic-themed products, far less than the 51 million US dollars the Vancouver Olympiad realized and than the Russian committee had originally projected (themoscowtimes.com/sochi2014/Sochi-Concedes-Defeat-to-Vancouver-in-Merchandise-Sales.html).
Two Suspects in Volgograd Bombings Arrested. Russia’s National Anti-Terrorism Committee said police have arrested two accomplices in the December 2013 Volgograd bombings. It said the two were part of a terrorist group based in Daghestan (metronews.ca/sports/926366/sochi-olympics-2-suspects-arrested-in-suicide-bombing/).
Serbian Gastarbeiters Returning Home from Sochi Say They were Mistreated. According to a report by RFE/RL, “apparently the much-touted ‘Slavic brotherhood’ beteen Russians and Serbs doesn’t extend to migrant workers.” Approximately 100 ethnic Serbs from Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina have now returned to their homelands and report they were mistreated and harassed by Russian companies and officials in Sochi (rferl.org/content/serb-workers-sochi-olympic/25240405.html).
Many Russians View Sochi Games as “Just Another Disaster to Be Survived.” “Even beyond the societies of social activists and environmentalists,” Bellona reports, “there are plenty of people [in Russia] who have plenty of Olympic-related woes on their mind[s]. But few of them areespecially forthcoming. It’s all just another disaster to be survived, another turn of the Kremlin gears they hope not to get crushed by … As one activist [said], ‘It’s just something called life in Russia’” (bellona.org/news/russian-human-rights-issues/2014-01-olympic-climate-change-hitting-krasnodar-hard).
More than 50 Olympians Call for Moscow to Repeal Anti-Gay Laws. Some 52 current and past Olympians have signed the Principle Six Campaign which calls for Moscow to repeal its anti-gay legislation. Among them are Martina Navratilova and Greg Louganis (theguardian.com/sport/2014/jan/30/olympic-athletes-russia-repeal-anti-gay-laws).
Bad Weather Traps 158 Buses Heading for Sochi. A major snow storm has blocked 158 buses travelling to Sochi for the Olympiad. The snow has also limited travel on even the largest roads and delayed but not yet stopped trains in the area. More bad weather is predicted for the next week in the mountains north of Sochi (aif.ru/olymp2014/olympnews/1094008 and
IOC President Reiterates Sexual Minorities Won’t Face Problems in Sochi. Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, says that his group has “guarantees from the Russian authorities” that the Olympic Charter will be observed and that during the Games there will not be any manifestations of discrimination including on the basis of sexual orientation” (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237325/).
Russian Finance Minister Acknowledges Moscow Spent 50 Billion US Dollars in Sochi. Finance Minister Anton Siluanov told Ekho Moskvy that Mosco had spent a total of 1.5 trillion rubles (50 billion US dollars) to get ready for the Olympiad, a figure far closer to the estimates of independent experts than the ones that continue to be offered by President Vladimir Putin and his administration (sochinskie-novosti.com/2014/01/24/%D0%BC%D0%B5%D0%B3%D0%B0%D0%BF%D1%80%D0%BE%D0%B5%D0%BA%D1%82-%D1%81%D0%BE%D1%87%D0%B8-2014-%D0%BE%D0%B1%D0%BE%D1%88%D0%B5%D0%BB%D1%81%D1%8F-%D0%B2-1-5-%D1%82%D1%80%D0%B8%D0%BB%D0%BB%D0%B8%D0%BE%D0%BD%D0%B0-%D1%80%D1%83%D0%B1%D0%BB%D0%B5%D0%B9/ ).
Sochi Games have Made North Caucasian Instability ‘More Visible.’ Michal Romanowski, program coordinator for the German Marshall Fund of the United States in Warsaw, says that the North Caucasus has “for two decades been on a steady, permanent boil.” The Sochi Games have simply made this reality “mmore visible,” and he suggested that “the terrorists of the North Caucasus will do their best to ensur that the world does not forget them” (blog.gmfus.org/2014/01/29/sochis-other-games-putin-against-the-terrorists/).
Moscow Furious at Use of Olympic Torch in Dubai. Russian officials, from the Olympic committee to the foreign ministry, have expressed outrage that several hotels in Dubai are displaying Olympic symbols and even conducting what Moscow has called an “illegitimate” torch relay. Sochi organizers say that only they are allowed to have such a relay at the present (sochi2014.rsport.ru/torchrelay/20140130/718918886.html and
US-Born Buddhist Among Sochi Torch Bearers. Erdni Ombadykov, a Kalmyk lama from Philadelphia who returned to the Buddhist region of the Russian Federation earlier at the suggestion of the Dalai Lama, was one of the torch bearers in Kalmykia (en.rsport.ru/olympics/20140125/717881919.html).
Obama Received Standing Ovation in Congress for Reference to Sochi. US President Barack Obama was given a standing ovation during his State of the Union address when he referred to Sochi by saying “We believe in the inherent dignity and equality of every human being, regardless of race or religion, creed or sexual orientation. Next week the world will see one expression of that commitment when Team USA marches the red, white and blue into the Olympic stadium and brings home the gold” (olympictalk.nbcsports.com/2014/01/29/president-obama-mentions-olympics-in-state-of-the-union/). Obama subsequently said that he would suggest that friends consider going to the Sochi Games even though he will not be attending (cnn.com/video/data/2.0/video/international/2014/01/31/newday-jake-tapper-obama-on-sochi-olympics.cnn.html).
UNGA Issues Call for Olympic Truce. John Ash, the president of the 68th session of the UN General Assembly, formally issued the call to countries participating in the Sochi Games for an Olympic truce (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237435/).
German City Refuses to Host ‘Welcome to Sochi’ Exhibit. The German city of Kassel said that it would not host an exhibit of the satirical works of Vasily Slonov about Sochi, not because of the content of his pictures but because he is not a resident of that city (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237408/).
ICG Says Putin’s Approach in North Caucasus Points to More Violence Ahead. The International Crisis Group in a report entitled “Too Far, Too Fast: Sochi, Tourism and Conflict in the Caucasus” says that the approach Russian President Vladimir Putin has adopted to secure the Olympics “may temporarily suppress the symptoms of the North Caucasus insurgency, but they cannot solve the core problems” (crisisgroup.org/en/regions/europe/north-caucasus/228-too-far-too-fast-sochi-tourism-and-conflict-in-the-caucasus.aspx).
Refugees in Ingushetia Plan Flashmob for February 7. Refugees who were forced to flee as a result of the conflict between Chechnya and Ingushetia in the early 1990s say they will stage a flashmob on the day of the opening of the Sochi Olympiad in the hopes that they will be able to attract international attention to their plight (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237334/).
Was Report about ‘Black Widows’ in Sochi an FSB Provocation? Some in Sochi have suggested that a story about the presence of the so-called “Black Widows” in that city, a story the FSB has since disowned, was given to Aleksandr Valov, editor of Blogsochi.ru, in order to discredit his independent reporting (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237211/ and kavpolit.com/v-fsb-oprovergayut-informaciyu-o-naxozhdenii-v-sochi-potencialnoj-smertnicy-ibragimovoj/).
Valov Tells Putin Moscow Apparently Doesn’t Want to Know about Sochi Problems.Aleksandr Valov, the editor of Blogsochi.ru, has posted an open letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin saying that the response of the Russian security forcess to reports about problems in Sochi suggests that Moscow doesn’t want to know the truth so that it can fix things but only to ensure that nothing critical appears. That is not only preventing the problems from being corrected but is undermining public confidence in the central government. If that continues, “then it will be necessary to create a GULAG on the bass of the FSB or organize mass shootings on the eve of the Olympiad” (blogsochi.ru/content/pismo-vladimiru-putinu-po-povodu-olimpiiskikh-repressii-v-sochi).
Supporters and Critics Agree Sochi a ‘Litmus Test’ of Russia’s Future. Supporters of the Sochi Games say the Olympiad marks the revival of Russia, while critics say the event is “an illustration of the ineffectiveness and corrupt nature of the Russian state.” But the two agree that Sochi is “a litmus test” of the direction Russia is heading, although they continue to disagree about that as well, a Moscow commentator says (blogsochi.ru/content/pokazaniya-svidetelei-ili-forbes-ob-olimpiiskom-sochi).
Cemetery Near Olympic Park Heavily Damaged by Games Construction. Russian reporters have played up the fact that the Sochi venues were carefully built around an Old Believer cemetery, but they have generally ignored the fact that the same construction has left another cemetery at the periphery of the Olympic park full of puddles and waste (blogsochi.ru/content/kladbishche-vozle-olimpiiskogo-parka).
Sochi Cultural-Historical Center Still Only a Skeleton. The Sochi Cultural-Historical Center where Russian officials had promised that local cultures would be represented is far from completion. Indeed, pictures show that only some of the framework has been done and that most of the building remains covered, a la a Potemkin village, with canvas (blogsochi.ru/content/kulturno-istoricheskii-tsentr-v-sele-nekrasovka).
Sochi Officials Say They’ll Deploy Sochi Youth During Games. Sochi officials have announced that children of families living in the Olympic city will be forced to help out the holding of the Olympics regardless of what their parents think. That has sparked anger among some about state interference, despite President Vladimir Putin’s promises, in the lives of families (blogsochi.ru/content/%C2%ABdeti-nakhodyashchiesya-v-gorode-budut-zadeistvovany-v-obshchegorodskikh-meropriyatiyakh%C2%BB).
European Federation of Journalists Warns of Problems Those Covering Sochi Face. The EFJ says that those who travel to Sochi to cover the Games will face violence against journalists, the blocking of critical online comment, homophobic laws and action, restrictions on their work and open harassment, among other problems (us6.campaign-archive2.com/?u=312d2086b1b5654e5e6957dd9&id=bc7fccf3a6&e=2bcf09b2ef).
Foreign Governments Give Advice to Those Planning to Go to Sochi. In an article entitled “Don’t Drink With People You Don’t Know and Don’t Express Your Opinion,” Moscow’s “Kommersant” newspaper says that the governments of countries taking part in the Sochi Olympiad are giving those planning to go a variety of advice. The Spanish foreign ministry say that its citizens should learn at least a little Russian, its German counterpart says German visitors mustn’t photograph military facilities, and its French counterpart says French citizens must avoid taking photographs of any Russian security officers or police (kommersant.ru/doc/2393190).
Sochi Shaken by Small Earthquake. A small earthquake, 3.5 on the Richter scale, centered off the coast of Sochi was not felt by most people but serves as a reminder that the entire region is tectonically active (privetsochi.ru/blog/news_sochi/41148.html).
Sochi Hotels Will Have to Be Converted into Condos After Games. In order to recoup some of their investments, those who have built hotels for the games are likely going to have to covert them into condominiums after the games, Russian real estate experts say. The implication of this is that most of them do not believe that Sochi will attract the continuing flow of visitors that Moscow officials have projected (privetsochi.ru/blog/realty_sochi/41092.html).
Sochi Residents Warned Against Manipulation by Media. Privetsochi.ru published a list of ten ways in which the media seek to manipulate people, including distracting attention, creating problems in order to offer a solution, using emotions rather than reason, and knowing more about people than the people know about themselves (privetsochi.ru/blog/Flood/41085.html).
Russians Joke about How Future History Books Will Treat Sochi Games. According to some Russians, “20 years from now, history textbooks will have a chapter entitled ‘The Period of the Restoration of the Economy After the Sochi Olympiad, 2014-2014.’” That joke appears to be an implicit commentary on a new book that officials have released entitled “The Olympic Heritage of Sochi” which talks about the future only in the most glowing terms (privetsochi.ru/blog/OlympicRu/41065.html and kubantv.ru/kultura-kuban/58705-v-fondakh-bibliotek-pojavilos-olim…).
Drink Up for Snow and a Russian Victory. Merchants are selling glasses with various slogans for various sizes of drinks. The marker for the smallest amount is “for snow and good weather,” an intermediate one is “for will to victory” and the line for a full glass reads “For a Russian Victory” (privetsochi.ru/blog/humor/40911.html).
You Know You’re a Real Sochi Resident If … Privetsochi.ru has published a list of 25 things that will instantly identify a Sochi resident from visitors. Among them is the ability to distinguish an Abkhazian from an Armenian or Georgian, a dislike of hearing anything about the Olympic, and an immediate smile if anyone talks about how terrible lines and prices are in Moscow (privetsochi.ru/blog/Flood/40909.html).
HRW Says Human Rights Abuses in Sochi are of ‘Olympian’ Proportions. In its latest report on Sochi, Human Rights Watch says that officials have abused the rights of residents, LGBTs and immigrants and that “the IOC, National Olympic Committees and corporate sponsors should urge Russia to end these abuses which violate the principles of “human dignity” and non-discrimination enshrined in the Olympic Charter, and work to prevent similar abuses by future Olympic host cities” (hrw.org/russias-olympian-abuses).
Kadyrov Says He’s Bringing 400 Chechens to Sochi. In an interview given to “Izvestiya,” Chechen head Ramzan Kadyrov says he is taking 400 of his co-ethnics to Sochi not because he has been assigned a quota but because he is such an enthusiastic fan (izvestia.ru/news/564623).
Morozov Says He’s Been Threatened Since Fleeing Russia. Valery Morozov, who fled Russia to London after talking about the demands for payoffs Russian President Vladimir Putin made to contractors, says he has been threatened with death. He told ABC News that he fears there will be an attempt on his life after the Sochi games are over (abcnews.go.com/Blotter/threats-sochi-olympics-whistleblower-drowned-blood/story?id=22270000#.Uuk7yGpyeUk.twitter).
Russian Security Efforts in Sochi Focused More on Putin Opponents than on Terrorists. The security arrangements Moscow has put in place in Moscow suggests that “Putin and his security minions are incapable of focusing their energies” on the terrorist threat and instead are targeting “gay activists, pro-democracy advocates and other agitators” instead, according to a commentary published by “USA Today” (usatoday.com/story/opinion/2014/01/28/russia-surveillance-sochi-olympics-black-widow-terrorism-column/4970863/).
CPJ Denounces Russia for Restricting News Coverage of Sochi. The Committee to Protect Journalists has released a report detailing the ways in which Russian officials have limited honest coverage of what is taking place in Sochi. What is particularly a matter of concern, CPJ said, is that to get the word out, “activists havehaving to take on the functions of journalists,” a step that sometimes leads others to dismiss what they say as reflecting their own narrow interests. The Russian authorities,” one of the authors of the report said, “have cracked down on journalists, rights defenders and civil activists in a way not seen since the break-up of the Soviet Union” (cpj.org/ru/2014/01/post-51.php and wjla.com/articles/2014/01/sochi-olympics-committee-to-protect-journalists-criticizes-russian-resrictions-on-olympic-news-cover.html).
Moscow Commentator Denounces Turkey for Anti-Russian Propaganda about Sochi. An article in Moscow’s “Geopolitika” says that Turkey has exploited the Sochi Olympics to launch a new wave of anti-Russian propaganda, something the article says the Russian authorities must do more to counter (geopolitica.ru/article/antirossiyskaya-propaganda-v-turcii-pered-olimpiadoy-2014#.UuvJCbRcUUO and natpress.ru/index.php?newsid=8678).
New Yorker Cover Shows Putin as Figure Skater Being Judged by Putin Look Alikes.The cover of the “New Yorker” this week shows Vladimir Putin in the guise of an Olympic figure skater being judged by five Putin look-alikes, an illustration that will recall the infamous behavior of the East German judges in earlier Olympiads. Barry Blitt, who drew the cover entitled “Jury of His Peers,” says that “Mr. Putin is a gift to caricaturists but to humanity in general, not so much” (washingtonpost.com/blogs/early-lead/wp/2014/01/27/sochi-2014-new-yorker-imagines-olympics-filled-with-putin/).
Poster Suggests Impoverished Russians are Sochi’s Main Sponsors. A poster now circulating online suggests that Russians impoverished by President Vladimir Putin’s extravagant spending on the Sochi Games are the main sponsors of the Olympiad, an indication of just how unhappy many Russians now are with something that Putin intended to be a celebration (facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=721105444575208&set=a.368739553145134.90000.124964357522656&type=1&theater).
EWNC Says Kozak Misled about Expansion of Sochi National Park. Russian Vice Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak’s claim last year that Moscow had expaned the area of Sochi National Park is untrue, Suren Gazaryan of the Environmental Watch on the North Caucasus says. In fact what has happened is “not so much the increase in the area of the national park as the illegal redistribution of its lands” that has reduced the amount of land protected from despoliation and increased the amount available for commercial development (ewnc.org/node/13481).
Caucasus Emirate Says Krasnodar is Part of Its Territory. The Caucasus Emirate has released a map showing the still predominantly ethnic Russian Krasnodar Kray on which Sochi is located as part of its territory, a step Russian commentators suggest is nothing more than an aspiration but that is certain to frighten many ethnic Russians in that region and more generally as an indication that the Emirate’s agents may launch a terrorist campaign there (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237153/).
Daghestan Vilayat Calls on Russians to Overthrow Putin or Face New Violence. The militant group that has claimed responsibility for the Volgograd bombings says in a new message that Russians will face attack if they do not rise up and overthrow Vladimir Putin. “Gone are the days when it was possible to destroy Muslims gratuitously,” the group says. “Today, one mujahid could destroy doens or even hundreds of people in your cities … The Kremlin gang leaders make cannot fodder of you and your children,, while they themselves accumulate billions in this war. If you do not decapitate this hydra, you will not see a quiet life” (worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2014/01/26/22452703-militants-tell-russia-rebel-against-putin-or-else?lite).
Reports Moscow Planning to Display Orcas in Sochi Spark Outrage. Unconfirmed reports that the Russian authorities plan to put orca whales on display in Sochi have sparked outrage among environmentalists who say that the criticism Moscow has received on this score “may have forced the Russians to reconsider because at last report the orcas were still in Moscow (nwcn.com/news/Orcas-at-the-Olympics-241908411.html).
Russian Bureaucrats Promote Sochi Not Out of Patriotism but to Save Their Jobs. According to a “Svobodnaya pressa” commentator, Russian officials promoting pro-Sochi propaganda are doing so not for patriotic reasons or out of an interest in sports but rather because in the event the games somehow fall short of Vladimir Putin’s expectations, many of them could lose their jobs in what would literally be “an earthquake” as far as they are concerned (svpressa.ru/sport/article/81133/).
Organized Crime Boss Said to Have Helped Putin Win Sochi Games. Craig Murray, a former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, says that Gafur Rakhimov, who is accused of being an organized crime boss and major heroin trafficker, helped Russian President Vladimir Putin convince the International Olympic Committee to award the games to Sochi (abcnews.go.com/Blotter/alleged-heroin-kingpin-helped-russia-win-olympics-sochi/story?id=22295531&singlePage=true).
Ski Resorts around Sochi Won’t Be Profitable, Russian Experts Say. A group of Russian experts meeting in Novosbirsk said that the ski resorts around Sochi are unlikely to be profitable not only because the region has ever less snow cover because of climate change but also because of transportation and other infrastructure bottlenecks (globalsib.com/19226/).
Moscow’s Sochi Effort Seen Marginalizing Russians Who Want to Get Rid of North Caucasus. A conference on “Russia in the Caucasus” organized by the RIA Novosti news agency said that Moscow’s promotion of Sochi has had the effect of marginalizing those who had earlier said that Russia should get rid of the North Caucasus but that that effort had not yet succeeded in promoting “a positive image” among Russians of the people living there (scienceport.ru/news/Eksperty-Situatsiya-v-plane-terrorizma-na-Severnom-Kavkaze-vovse-ne-tak-beznadezhna-i-ne-tak-provalna-kak-ee-risuyut-angazhirovannye-SMI-8970.html).
Astrakhan Hospitals Refuse to Treat North Caucasians. Medical facilities in the southern Russian oblast of Astrakhan are refusing to admit residents of Daghestan, Ingushetia and Chechnya, on the basis of an order from the regional health ministry. Chechen officials have already complained that this practice violates the constitutional rights of the peoples of the North Caucasus (wordyou.ru/v-rossii/v-astraxanskix-bolnicax-otkazyvayutsya-prinimat-pacientov-s-kavkaza.html).
Islamist Site Likens Putin’s Olympics to Hitler’s. Pakistan’s Islamic Jihad Union, an ally of Al Qaeda, has put out a four-minute video likening Vladimir Putin’s Sochi Olympics to those of Adolf Hitler in Berlin in 1936. It says that as a result of Putin’s actions, “an atmosphere of fear and terror” now hangs over Russia (11alive.com/news/article/319786/40/Sochi-Olympics-threatened-again).
IOC Marketing Chief Says Sochi’s Cost May ‘Scare Away’ Olympic Host Hopefuls. Gerhard Heibert, the head of marketing for the International Olympic Committee, says that the enormous amount of money that Moscow has spent on Sochi may “scare away” possible bids by cities that otherwise might have wanted to host the games in the future. He said steps must be taken to reduce the costs of hosting the games (uk.eurosport.yahoo.com/news/sochi-2014-winter-olympics-must-reduce-cost-ioc-123743098–spt.html).
Moscow Says EU Seeking to Impose ‘Alien View’ of Homosexuality on Other Countries. The Russian government says in a 153-page report on human rights in EU countries that the European Union is seeking to impose”neo-liberal values as a universal lifestyle for all other members of the the international community” (uk.eurosport.yahoo.com/news/sochi-2014-russia-says-eu-tries-impose-quot-213633426–spt.html).
Visa Problems, Terrorism and Lack of Upscale Hotels Keep Americans Away from Sochi. American tourist agencies say that the Sochi Games appear on course to attract fewer Americans than have attened such competitions over the last 20 years, a reflection of problems with visas, fears of terrorism, and a shortage of upscale hotels. One touro operator said that few are likely to go to Sochi in the future either: “I don’t think many people are going to see this Russian destination they’ve never heard of in the opening ceremonies on TV in the dead of winter and say, ‘You know, that’s where I want to go next weekend,’” he said (seattletimes.com/html/travel/2022749340_sochiolympicstourismxml.html).
Romney Says He’d Be ‘Comfortable’ Taking His Family to Sochi. 2012 Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney says that despite security threats, he would be “comfortable” taking his family to Sochi. ”There’s never been a games I know of that have been so targeted for specific threats as you’re seeing in Sochi,” he said. “At the same time, the level of security preparations appears to be at an unprecedented level. So I think people can recognize that the hard sites will be safe. The athletes will be safe, spectators when they’re in the venues will be safe. But it’s the soft places you can’t be 100% certain will be entirely safe but my guess is the Russians have done everything humanly possible to protect the games” (13wmaz.com/story/sports/2014/01/24/romney-sochi-olympics-will-be-safe-despite-security-concerns/4821889/).