The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has gone through what could be regarded as a fruitful year. after dealing with a couple of key political issues, such as the release of the Pussy Riot protesters and businessman Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, Mr. Putin has focused his attention and efforts on the organisation of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
It has been confirmed that an exorbitant $50billion have been spent on the Winter Olympic Games by Mr. Putin; almost four times the amount of money spent on the celebrations in London 2012 Olympics. But a question here arises: can Russia afford to lavish such a sum in such controversial times?
President Putin and the Olympics Committee argued that a large sum of the money was spent in order to provide a good level on infrastructure in Sochi, pushing the Russian city to meet the proper requirements needed to host such a global event as the Winter Olympics. Funnily enough, a number of journalists who arrived in Sochi have reported the shoddy conditions of the hotels in which they are sojourning. An example being Mark MacKinnon, who has tweeted on Febraury 4th, “Ok, so my hotel doesn’t have a lobby yet”.
In a country that has been suffering from corruption for as long as we can imagine and that has recently implemented homophobic laws, there is but little space for frivolous expenditures. Mr. Putin has claimed that Sochi Games will get Russia closer to the West, making it a good occasion for both parties to share some healthy sports’ values. What Mr. Putin might not have considered is the fact that Western countries might not buy into these conditions; influential personalities, such as actors and athletes, have expressed strong opinions against recent Russian legislations. On the other hand, what is actually worrying is that a good portion of the Russian citizens are so used to corruption that they do not regard it as a serious public offence anymore; they have given up to this political condition.
It could come to mind to draw a comparison with the 1980 Summer Olympics, hosted by the USSR under Mr. Brezhnev’s government. At the time, the Olympic Games were boycotted by the US, as a protest against war in Afghanistan. Of course this is not the case with the 2014 Winter Olympics, but it is interesting to notice what reasons made Mr. Brezhnev consider cancelling the games; he did not want scandals to arise or have to be faced with the extremely high costs. Certainly these concerns, that Mr. Brezhnev dismissed, are the very same that Mr. Putin faces at the moment.
With the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Russia is displaying its renewed confidence and world-wide strength. Despite the country being at the centre of a number of controversial debates, the Olympic Games will be a time where different nations will have the opportunity to come together and anticipate to a range of most entertaining sports. These Games might be some of the more problematic Winter Olympics of the last years, but they still are a chance for diplomacy between the West and Russia.