Sochi's Soviet style Olympics
The dismal record of mega event evictions, media manipulation, lying and overspends continues. Sochi is striving hard to compete with Delhi and Beijing as the most brutal event in recent years.
Stories of environmental disasters continue to surface with a new report that Sochi lacks sites to dispose of garbage and construction waste. At the moment waste is dumped on a site which frequently sees blazes and the waste is said to be polluting the Pitkha River, which runs into the Black Sea. Environmentalists are also protesting at development plans which threaten the landscape of parts of the North Caucasus which are protected as natural UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Sochi's dismal record has continued all summer. In May a couple of weeks after Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak told President Medvedev that all the issues surrounding the evictions of Sochi residents had been resolved the same evicted residents went on hunger strike. Kozak had reportedly told Medvedev "these issues have been solved with a maximum attention for citizen's interests." Contradicting this assertion residents demanded that Vlad Putin should come and sort out the problems. Workers had gone on hunger strike in March over the failure to pay their wages.
Also in March Reporters without Borders had said the authorities were blocking reporting of evictions and other disputes surrounding the Winter Games. Andrei Ballin, co-author of a report commented: "The authorities are making sure there are no discussions concerning any arrangements for the Olympic Games. In the local media there is no mention of this debate."
In June, while the residents' hunger strike was underway, IOC Chief Rogge visited Sochi and praised the preparations for the Games saying "Thank you for the excellent work you have done during this time. Thank you for listening to our suggestions." These suggestions do not seem to have included any reference to human rights. In fact back in January 2009, another IOC functionary, former skier Jean-Claude Killy, had described these suggestions as 'marginal' saying "Experts have made certain suggestions, but they are unessential, even marginal. We can discuss them later." Of course, Vlad had claimed human rights would be respected and evictees would be treated well.
During the June visit Killy said "We want to assure you that they (Russia) will do a fantastic job of holding the games." This at the same time as environmentalists were arguing Sochi was a disaster of Soviet proportions.
Then in July with the Games facing widespread allegations of corruption Security Chief Aleksandr Bortnikov decided to play the terrorism card claiming the FSB had received intelligence of plans to attack Sochi in 2014. Commentators saw this as a useful distraction from this growing chorus of criticism.
Of course, this could also have something to do with the fact that Sochi could face a boycott on account of Russia's support for the breakaway Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Kurt Volker, the former US ambassador to NATO has said "if the United States and Europe do nothing, we will surely face an untenable situation in 2014." Playing the terrorism card suggested a boycott of Sochi would represent a setback in the war against terror and not something the West should contemplate.
It won't be long before the IOC starts insisting politics should be kept out of sport.
Submitted by Julian Cheyne on Fri, 17/09/2010 - 04:15.