EDITORIAL: The Continuing Crisis in Sochi

EDITORIAL

The Continuing Crisis in Sochi

Sergei Volkov

Last week Sergei Volkov, a senior Russian scientist who had been working as a consultant for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, fled Russia after warning there could be a series of disasters because of the way the facilities are being built.  Russia is constructing the Sochi venues on land that is routinely plagued by massive landslides and often experiences building collapses.

Now, Volkov fears he’ll be arrested after receiving threats from the Russian authorities, who want him to pipe down.

Volkov’s concerns are just the latest in a long line of horrific warnings being sounded about the proposed 2014 Olympiad in Sochi.

There is the terrifying risk of violence, both because of Russia’s atrocities in Chechnya and throughout the nearby Caucasus region and because the games themselves are being constructed on what many in the region consider sacred ground.  The recent subway bombings in Moscow underline the very real risk of mass fatalities if the games go foward.

There is appalling destruction of the local ecology, as Russia ham-handedly bludgeons the region in order to erect the venues, heedless of the harm to endangered species and wetlands.

There is shocking callousness of the regime to the local property owners, whom it routinely divests of their legal rights and property without due process of law.

There is sickening prospect of Russian athletes humiliating themselves and their country before the eyes of a slack-jawed world in a manner even more stunning than what occurred this year at the Vancouver Olympiad.

There is the even more nauseating expense of the construction efforts, which when magnified by predictable Russian waste and corruption place an unbearable burden on the national economy at the precise moment when an economic downturn has made public assistance to citizens the key priority, one which the Kremlin is recklessly ignoring in the vain hope of international prestige and glory.

And there is, of course, the vile specter of the KGB regime that has liquidated every democratic institution and value in the country preening before the world and using the Olympics as a propaganda weapon against its own people.

Any one of these factors, much less all of them combined, ought to be enough to make any responsible person see the need to divest Russia of these games.

14 responses to “EDITORIAL: The Continuing Crisis in Sochi

  1. I think the Sochi Olympics are probably some sort of convoluted money laundering operation. Actually it so doesn’t make sense. I heard one theory that the Russian Oligarchs and the KGBers want to build their own Kurshavel there, but it doesn’t really make sense because you can’t possible make Sochie into Kurshavel even if you have all the cash in the world. So I really can’t imagine what they’re up to down there. And as was noted in the article it’s too close to the Caucasus.
    Btw the way Putin got the International Olympics Committee to make Russia the host of these games is also rather suspect. He flew personally to wherever the IOC were meeting, some place in South America far as I can recall. We can only guess what he told them.

    • Igor, you gotta be kidding me. Obama did the same thing to get Olympics to his home town of Chicago:

      http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/2009/10/02/2009-10-02_obamabacked_bid_for_chicago_to_host_2016_summer_olympics_ends_after_finishing_de.html

      Obama-backed bid for Chicago to host Olympics finishes last; Rio wins vote for 2016 Summer Games

      President Obama had delivered Chicago’s failed final sales pitch.

      Earlier in the day, Obama delivered a passionate plea, calling his adopted hometown the “most American of American cities.”

      “I’ve come here today to urge you to choose Chicago for the same reasons I chose Chicago nearly twenty-five years ago – the reasons I fell in love with the city I still call home,” said Obama, who flew to Copenhagen to lead Chicago’s final presentation.

      • the only difference is that Obama failed but Putin succeeded, for some inexplicable reason. Sochi hosting winter Olympics sounds ridiculous to most Russians, the city’s always been regarded as a summer resort, in winter the average lowest temperature there is positive 3 degrees Celsius, I mean are they planning to bring artificial snow machines there or what?
        Plus doesn’t Putin have more pressing issues to spend money on, in a country where over 20% of the population live below the official (very low) poverty level, a country that has no roads to speak of, whose healthcare system is in shambles, and whose education sector is fast turning into a laughing stock, and where thousands of pensioners are literally starving and are unable to buy even the basic medications that they need.
        These Olympics, metaphorically speaking, are no less than Putin ejaculating on the face of the Russian people

        • Well Igor, all I can say is that from reading your posts, you are exactly the sort of person your country needs more of.

        • Igor!, man O’ man, you are not just a pretty face you have brains to go along with your looks.

          Russia needs more of your honest kind.

          And as for Putin, I believe that Sochi is just a propaganda exercise, at the expense of the long suffering Russian plebs, in trying to gain ‘brownie’ points to ‘big wig’ himself on the world ‘arena’, which is just a stage in his sick search of greatness but in effect are only the megalomania aspirations of a demented and raving “KaGEBe” spy.

  2. igorfazlyev, Is this what you mean?
    Kurshavel http://35451.ua.all-biz.info/en/

    The problem is of course the way the work is progressing, and who is responsible. Putin says that everything is fine. $16 billion is the cost while Canada spent $30 billion. So once again the workers are used as Capital.
    http://www.mn.ru/news/20100318/55423034.html

    Workers are being misstreated, left there to muck around in the mud without pay or food, even portable toilets that are overflowing.
    The contractors think that they will just get disgusted and go home without being paid for work already done. Forget about courts or unions, this is a reminder of how people were sent to Siberia and perished.

    Workers that have been dumped without backpay to send their families had to mortgage their papers to get the locals to supply food. Now they cannot leave.

    http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/wage-arrears-paid-to-sochi-olympic-workers/402240.html

    I do not believe that this problem was solved because the money is not there. The investors (The KGB Mafia) that were to be involved did not trust the government and took their money elsewhere. Companies blame each other but the main contractor is in Moscow.

    http://www.mn.ru/news/20100318/55423034.html

  3. Not wholly OT: I think that the truth about this site is that Kim Ziegfeld is an angry Russian patriot. Her fury whenever the country looks bad in foreign eyes – especially in sports – is recognizable to anyone else who has suffered similar national humiliations. I could have, for instance, repeated almost word for word what she said about the Russian humiliation at Vancouver, for Italy’s even more deplorable performance (one gold, one silver, one bronze) in the same competition. Some countries make you pay dearly for loving them.

    • Unlike Russia, Italy has never (not since the Mussolini time anyway) made a claim to being a superpower and best in everything that the whole world should admire. Even though Italy is obviously a highly developed and civilized country and there is a lot to be admired about the Italian nation and culture.

      As far as the Winter Olympics, how can you compare Italy with a country covered with snow and ice for many months a year? I know, Italy has Alpine regions, but still…

      • ‘country covered in snow and ice most of the year’
        That’s the funniest and weirdest thing about this choice, Sochie happens to be one of the few places in Russia that sometimes doesn’t get any snow in winter at all. Yes there are mountains right next to it and up there on some of the peaks there’s always snow but are they going to hold all events in the mountains?
        Another weird thing about Sochi as a venue for the Olympics as that at the time it was selected it had practically no sports facilities to speak of, almost everything has to be built from scratch, which, among other things, involves forcing thousand of people out of their homes to demolish those homes to make room for the new sports facilities. If you think about it it’s total craziness.

    • I don’t think Kim is Russian.

  4. As a matter of fact, Italians are proud, and do expect to be the best at everything. If you pay attention to Italian debate, it is always about why we are less well administered than France or Germany, less economically mighty than the USA or Japan, etc. As for winter sports, Italy is mostly mountains: drive east from Rome for one hour, and you will be over two thousand metres above sea level, amid eternal snows (I did my military service there, so I know) in the Abruzzi region. There are snowy mountains even in Sicily and Sardinia (the Madonie and Caronie, the Gennargentu). And we have a long and illustrious tradition in most winter sports – you should have heard of Alberto Tomba, at least. Take it from me, one gold one silver one bronze is utter national disgrace: last time it was six gold and a dozen silver and bronze.

    As for our politicians, I won’t say that Berlusconi is as bad as Putler, but when you realize that he only looks good next to Putler, and that he is still by far the best we have – God help us if the left ever win another election – you realize that we have a few problems of our own.

    • Of course Italians are a very proud people. As they should be because they have a lot to be proud of, even if Italy, like any other country has a lot of problems. So, if they did not win a lot of medals, they can find consolation in their food, fashion, cars, fine arts, etc. all of which are among the very best in the world.

      So this comparison with Russia is just silly. Russia, basically a barbaric third world country (or just one step above at best) demands respect if not even veneration with zero justification. Versus a highly developed, highly cultured country.

      I do remember Alberto Tomba.

  5. In view of the murders of human rights defenders and journalists in Russia in 2009, Human Rights Watch is particularly concerned about possible rights violations ahead of the 2014 Winter Games. Human Rights Watch also issued a recent report documenting thousands of extrajudicial killings in Rio, host of the 2016 Summer Games.

    “The bottom line is that successful Olympic Games cannot take place in an environment where serious human rights abuses are occurring,” said Minky Worden, media director at Human Rights Watch. “The International Olympic Committee and corporate sponsors have a clear responsibility to anticipate and address human rights abuses linked to the Olympics.”

    In 2007 and 2008, Human Rights Watch extensively documented human rights abuses linked to China’s hosting of the 2008 Beijing Games, including forced evictions, abuses of migrant workers, media censorship, and a clampdown on civil society. Despite the Chinese government’s pledges to the International Olympic Committee that the Games would bring rights improvements, these Olympics led to an overall deterioration of human rights in China.

    The rights abuses engendered by China’s hosting of the 2008 Olympics, as well as concerns about potential rights violations by future host countries, including Russia, led Human Rights Watch to submit a proposal for rights reform and monitoring to the International Olympic Committee. Human Rights Watch presented this proposal at the Olympic Congress in Copenhagen in October 2009.

    Human Rights Watch has outlined particular concerns about the upcoming Sochi Games in letters to the International Olympic Committee, including:

    * Human Rights Watch’s letter of May 7, 2009, on the problems of expropriation and worker grievances;
    * Human Rights Watch’s letter of August 28, 2009, on the killings of journalists and rights defenders in Russia, and in particular in the Caucasus region, where the Sochi Games will take place;
    * Human Rights Watch’s letter of October 1, 2009, providing an update on the topic of expropriations and information on potential health issues.

    “The Olympic Charter describes Olympism as based on the ‘respect for universal fundamental ethical principles,'” Worden said. “The International Olympic Committee needs to make sure that future host countries do not violate the Olympic Charter by allowing rights abuses to occur while preparing for the Games.”

    http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2010/02/12/olympics-dont-skate-over-rights-violations

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