Nemtsov Mocks Putin’s Olympic Fantasies

Joshua Keating interviews Boris Nemtsov at

Foreign Policy: So why do you believe it is a mistake to hold the 2014 Winter Olympics in your hometown, Sochi?

Boris Nemtsov: In all of Russian history, I can think of only one example as crazy as this. After he visited Iowa, (Soviet Premier Nikita) Khrushchev, told farmers around Murmansk, above the Arctic Circle, to grow corn in the frozen tundra. (Prime Minister Vladimir) Putin is now repeating Khrushchev’s experience. He has found one of the only places in Russia where there is no snow in the winter. He has decided to build these ice rinks in the warmest part of the warmest region. Sochi is subtropical. There is no tradition of skating or hockey there. In Sochi, we prefer football, and volleyball, and swimming. Other parts of Russia need ice palaces – we don’t.

FP: But isn’t the construction good for the local economy?

BN: It is disastrous. Roughly 5,000 people have been forced out of their homes to make room for the Olympic facilities, and thanks to the corruption and incompetence of authorities, have not yet been adequately compensated for their property or been given equivalent housing elsewhere, as they were promised. Billions of dollars have simply disappeared. All this sacrifice is for facilities that will most likely not be used when the Games are over.

FP: What are the problems besides the weather?

BN: These Olympics will be an economic and ecological catastrophe. A road being built from Sochi to the ski areas in the nearby mountains will cost around $130 million per kilometre. This is now one of the world’s most expensive roads and a symbol of corruption. The road will also pass directly through environmentally sensitive areas under the protection of UNESCO.

Putin seems to think he can buy success. When Sochi was awarded the Olympics at the 2007 (International Olympic Committee) meeting in Guatemala, he promised to spend $13 billion on them. Vancouver has only spent $2 billion. It’s certainly possible that with the level of corruption in Russia, $13 billion is what will be needed to get anything done after everyone has had their cut, but we don’t think this is very good for Russia, or for the world.

Sometimes, it seems like God doesn’t even want the Olympics in Sochi. Putin’s close friend, the oligarch Oleg Deripaska, attempted to build a sea cargo port in Sochi, but a huge storm in the Black Sea (in late 2009) destroyed it. They should have taken this as a sign that God doesn’t want this to happen!

FP: What about terrorism? Sochi is near some very dangerous areas of the North Caucasus.

BN: I don’t think terrorism will be a big problem. There is not much of that in Sochi. The bigger concerns are organized crime – which is very active there – and government corruption.

FP: What response have you gotten for raising these issues?

BN: It is impossible in Russia today to criticize any of the government’s decisions in the government-controlled media. My movement, Solidarity, has several times proposed public debates on the Games, but nobody from the Russian Olympic committee has agreed to take part.

FP: Why do you think the International Olympic Committee went along with the idea?

BN: I believe that the organization is under very strong pressure from Putin and there is an informal relationship between him and the committee. Eventually, there will be an international investigation to bring to light why this decision was made. Whether it happens before or after the Olympics will depend on the level of interest of the international community. But the truth will come out and the IOC will have to answer for it.

14 responses to “Nemtsov Mocks Putin’s Olympic Fantasies

  1. Thank Goodness the games will be in Sochi. We had a similar situation with the Summer Games in 1936 when the world went to Berlin.

    I can only hope that the world will view with eyes wide open the fascist state Putin has created in Russia. Sochi will not be a place for games. But will be a spectacle for the world to see and condemn the Dictator Putin. He will not be able to hide.

    Let us just hope that Western Civilization has learned some lessons from 1936.

    • “Let us just hope that Western Civilization has learned some lessons from 1936.”

      I wouldn’t put money on it. Ancient Greeks gave up on democracy, the Romans gave up on the accountability of republican values, unsuccessfully appeasing dictators did not begin or end with Chamberlain, socialism is always given ONE MORE TRY… we always go back to our favorite mistakes.

    • National Socialist Germany has nothing to do with the Russia’s plutocratic regime. Learn some history, and start with ideological, and other endless differences between National Socialism and Fascism. Or continue sound like one of those red-neck commies that call “fascist” anything they fear, or don’t know sh*t about.

  2. Steamed McQueen

    Don’t bet on it, Kolchak. If nothing else, Russia is a master at deception. Visitors to Sochi will see only what Russia wants them to see.

    Several years ago when there was an economic summit in St. Petersburg, Putin ordered that huge fences be constructed to block the view of the dilapidated houses that visiting dignitaries might see on the trip from the airport to central St. Petersburg.

    Potemkin villages, indeed.

    • Ahhh…. I’m glad you brought up Potemkin villages, because I was just going to suggest it’s time for a Potemkin something-or-other. So far we’ve had Potemkin modernization, Potemkin fraud, Potemkin opposition, Potemkin skies, Potemkin middle class, Potemkin Russia and Potemkin Putin. Seems like “Potemkin” is one of those catch-all modifiers that gets inserted whenever it’s a slow news day, or you’re stuck for a headline, but want to imply contempt.

      Besides, haven’t we just been over all this? Didn’t we just thrash out the Sochi question only weeks ago, with pot-boilers like “The Looming Sochi Disaster” and “Annals of the Sochi Fiasco”? How much mileage can there be in a town that’s still four years from hosting the Olympics?

      Oh, that’s right. Boris Nemtsov said something about it. That means it’s the smokin’ hot gospel, because Boris Nemstov is the guy who really should be leading Russia. Just as soon as he can get a few Russians to vote for him, that is. He’s the darling of the West, of course, because all you need to be popular with the West – if you’re a Russian – is to regularly say derogatory things about the current leader and generally moan about how great Russia could be if it were only more like the United States.

      Something that’s always bothered me: if Vladimir Putin is such a bloodthirsty demon, who regularly whacks the opposition and leaves their bodies in car trunks or in the river or whatever, what’s Boris Nemtsov doing still walking around? I mean, he’s been complaining about the government for years. You’d think if he were a serious threat to the Russian government, they’d try to shut him up.

      Maybe that’s it: maybe he’s not a threat to the Russian government. That would tie in with his failure to get himself elected mayor in his home town. Did I say “failure”? I meant “abysmal, epic failure”. After being Deputy Prime Minister of the entire country (just about the time the economy went into a power dive, but that’s probably a coincidence, right?), Nemtsov polled just 13% of the vote. Gee, his fellow residents really seem to like him.

      But at least he stuck around for the vote. In 2007 he ran for President of Russia, but dropped out because he claimed the election was fixed. Before that, he was a Director of the Neftyanoy Bank, but quit right around the time fraud allegations started to pop up. His Union of Right Forces Party polled 8.6% of the vote nationwide in 2000, the year the party was introduced. Probably just that he couldn’t campaign, I imagine – new kid on the block, couldn’t get his face out there. Although I notice he gets no end of press now, most of it Western.

      His close pal is Anatoly Chubais, who is so corrupt even the corrupt bow in respect; in a Nemtsov government, Chubais would likely receive a cabinet appointment.

      Let’s use the president of the United States for a moment, for an illustrative example. Barack Obama is extremely popular outside the United States, the rest of the world loves him. Doesn’t matter, say Americans who don’t like him – it’s our business, and we’ll thank you to mind your own. But when the Russian president and Prime Minister poll orders of magnitude above their rivals, Americans (and a few other busybodies) suggest it’s really the guy who polled less than 10% of the vote, and who couldn’t get elected mayor in his own home town after being Deputy Prime Minister of the whole country (appointed, not elected) who should be running the show. If anyone protests, they’re a Potemkin something. See where I’m going with that? Doesn’t seem odd to you at all?

      Tune in next week, when we’ll feature the latest rant from whatever dissident is the flavour of the week, printing their verbatim comments on various timely issues as if they were news. If it doesn’t come across strongly enough, put “Potemkin” in front of it.

      • Mark, though it’s doubtful asking you to think could lead to any actual thinking, you might pause to consider that the length of your comment belies the content of your comment. You’re making a total fool out of yourself.

        • Your Potemkin rebuttal strongly resembles the “I know you are, but what am I?” defense. Was there an actual correction in there somewhere? If so, I missed it. In any case, I’m sure your readers can decide who’s making a fool of themselves.

          I hope I didn’t give the impression that I disliked this blog, because nothing could be further from the truth – it’s the funniest thing I’ve read in years. It’d be hard to select the comic spike, the whole thing is such a cavalcade of comedy; but if I had to choose just one, I think it’d be your mission statement. “…many dedicated and talented people working for a common goal: To (that should be a lower-case “t”) see Russia become a prosperous, democratic, contributing member of the world community…”

          Uh huh. I can imagine the Russians elbowing each other out of the way to vote for a former chess champion, and a guy who couldn’t get elected mayor in his home town. And it’d be such a comfort to know that if the duo got voted in, the economy would be under the control of the guy who wrecked it last time.

          Good luck with that.


          Mark, there’s nothing for us to respond to in your insane gibberish. FYI, we didn’t use the word “Potemkin” in this post. Your suggestion that if we don’t carry on a dialogue with a crazy person we somehow “lose” violates our comment rules. Keep it up and you’ll be banned.

          We’re sorry to hear that you find the plight of the people of Sochi, the murder of journalists, and the decline of the Russian population — all issues we document extensively here on this blog — to be funny. We consider these facts tragedy, and think you are probably sick in the head if you find them funny. Also rather jealous like a schoolboy that so many pay attention to us and nobody to you.

          Oddly, though, there’s nothing remotely indicative of amusement in your long comment, it’s a serious polemic indicating serious disagreement and even outrage with our post. Your own words show what a silly little liar you are, a perfect example of a neo-Soviet stooge.

        • Mark! your obvious strong point is that you believe that your stupidity is a virtue! Believe me chum it ‘ain’t’ so! Far, far from the truth.

          Before you start shooting your crazy, stupid mouth off look up the real meaning of Potemkin. Then and only then will you be able to make any sense rather then spouting you stupid propaganda and making no sense.

          If you think that “it’s the funniest thing I’ve read in years. It’d be hard to select the comic spike, the whole thing is such a cavalcade of comedy;”
          then you obviously have areal problem with reality – maybe it’s time for your regular checkup visit to your Head Shrink, i.e. psychiatrist, as you need it badly!!!

          Bah, what a wasted space – do yourself a favor and get back to hog raising or corn growing , or whatever you’re up to in that U.S. of A..

          • Thanks for your expert diagnosis, Dr. Bohdan, I’ll get right on that.

            • Wow! the smartest thing you’ve ever said. If you can keep it up there’s still hope for you.

              By the way your very short, solitary paragraph – which also happens to be a sentence; contained one glaring lie in that you called me a “Dr.” Please note that I am neither a PhD nor an MD. Besides this is not your beloved fascist ruSSia, where I can bribe the right people and become overnight a Dr.

      • Mark, the best tribute to this blog is how an apologist for Putin, like yourself, becomes an avid contributor—praise indeed for LR.

        Why do you bother? Its obvious you have a vested interest in Putin’s survival. Does your business involve the laundering of stolen Russian money, in London perhaps?

        Regarding Nemtsov’s showing in a rigged election, he never stood a chance since the Putin regime have taken over TV media. And as for Putin’s poll numbers, how can you trust such findings in a police state?

        • Kazan, you wrote: “Why do you bother? Its obvious you have a vested interest in Putin’s survival. Does your business involve the laundering of stolen Russian money, in London perhaps?

          You write your own unsuccessful blog called “Beware of Putin”. Why do you bother? It’s obvious you have a vested interest in Putin’s removal. Does your business involve the laundering of Russian money stolen by Berezovsky, in London perhaps?

  3. I think Mark knows the meaning of “Potemkin”… it’s the meaning of “election” that he is struggling with. Brezhnev got 99 per cent, Nemtsov got 13% – nothing to see here folks.

    Nemtsov is the darling of the West, and Pakhomov is the darling of Moscow – and who cares about Sochi residents’ opinion, anyway!

    • Hey, Felix! Hope you’re not too drained from work. What is it you do?

      Anyway, I’m sure the “Brezhnev” thing was an error, unless you meant to throw in a deliberate non sequitur to make a point (same old, same old kind of thing) – Nemtsov never ran against Brezhnev for anything. His opponent, Pahkomov, got 77% of the vote, as I’m sure you know.

      It’s curious that Nemtsov could have lived all that time in Sochi and never noticed the mountains that are visible from the beach on a clear day. While Sochi is a good deal warmer than Vancouver, which tends to be a bit more temperate, the situations are not dissimilar. The Krasnodar mountains get plenty of snow in winter, and you can build an ice rink anywhere.

      There are many sensible arguments Nemtsov could make against holding the Olympics in Sochi – I don’t think anybody makes money from hosting the Olympics, for example, and the venues that remain will likely not earn back the money they cost – but impossibility due to temperature isn’t one of them.

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