Category Archives: sochi

EDITORIAL: Red Russian Blood on the White Sochi Snows


Red Russian Blood on the White Sochi Snows

If the Russian speed-skating team wins a medal at the Sochi Olympiad in 2014, Italy will bend its neck and be decorated, because the coach of the Russian team is Italian.  Russia’s curling medal, if any, will go the team’s Canadian coach, its short-track medal, should there be one, will go to the Korean coach, and any biathalon medal will go to a German.

So even before Russian athletes step into the cold in 2014, they’ll already have admitted they at they can’t win without massive foreign assistance.  But the chances that Russia will win in Sochi — or even make the top 10 — are remote indeed.

Not all Russian teams will be led by non-Russians.  For instance the men’s hockey team is not — and at the recent world championships that squad was denied any medal and was crushed in two games in the medal rounds by tiny countries whose resources are not remotely comparable to those of Russia.

So it’s clear why Russia has so many foreign coaches.

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EDITORIAL: A Thousand days to Apocalypse in Russia


A Thousand days to Apocalypse in Russia

On May 14, 2011, Russia switched on a countdown timer in the city of Sochi to tick off the days remaining until the 2014 Winter Olympiad unfolds there.  The clock should have been in the shape of a ticking time bomb, in order to do justice to horror of anticipating what may be the bloodiest sports contest in modern memory.

Just the day before, Russia had gone down to utterly humiliating defeat to tiny Finland, getting blanked 0-3, at the semi-finals of the world ice hockey championships in Slovakia (Russia then promptly surrendered seven goals to Czech Republic and lost the bronze medal as well) .  The world was reminded that Russia is inviting it to gape upon the spectacle of Russian failure in 2014; if Russians are unable to meet the high expectations for gold medals the whole country will be forced to bow its head in shame.

But even if Russians manage to reap a fistful of gold in Sochi, they still must face the horrifying specter of terrorism.

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EDITORIAL: Blood on the White Russian Snows


Blood on the White Russian Snows

Last week Russia suffered what may well be, pound for pound, the most terrifying act of separatist violence in its history.

In a gesture of unmistakable menace towards the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, the Caucasian rebels launched an all-out assault on winter sportsmen.  Three skiers from Moscow were shot dead on the road to the slopes in Kabarino-Balkaria (two other members of their party were wounded), and at nearby Mt. Elbrus another force of rebels blew up a ski lift, bringing down dozens of cable cars.  The attacks were timed to coincide with the staging of the first test events for the Sochi games.

The response of the Putin regime was truly terrifying. It openly admitted that it could not control the separatist violence, and helplessly warned Russian sportsmen to simply stay out of the area. Today Kabarino-Balkaria, tomorrow Sochi.

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The world must stop the Sochi 2014 madness. Now. 34 dead and 170 injured Russians today, tomorrow they will be foreign athletes and sports fans unless the world acts now. (Note:  The blast occurred at 4:30 pm on Monday January 24th.  As of 7 pm, two and a half hours later, state-sponsored Russian TV had reported nothing about the blast.  This is how the Russian government responds to risks to public safety, and how it will continue to respond.)

EDITORIAL: Blood on the Olympic Snows of Sochi?


Blood on the Olympic Snows of Sochi?

Last week in the city of Vladikavkaz, capital of North Ossetia and just 250 short miles from Sochi where the 2014 Winter Olympics are to be held, a bomb exploded in a marketplace, injuring at least 173 people.  Seventeen people, and the suicide bomber who triggered the blast, were killed.  Rioting followed, and even more were killed.

If it can happen in Vladikavkaz, it can happen in Sochi. If it does, world leaders who send their athletes to the Russian games will have blood on their hands.

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EDITORIAL: Putin’s Failure in Chechnya and the 2014 Olympics


Putin’s Failure in Chechnya and the 2014 Olympics

Worry is rising over the risk of terrorism at Russia’s 2014 Winter Olympics. Last week’s deadly attack on a hydroelectric station in Russia’s deep south only added to the concern. The number of attacks in the predominantly Muslim North Caucasus was up 57 percent last year, and unlike the Chechen wars of 1994–2001, these killings have been the work of a bewildering array of rebel groups, some motivated by radical Islam but others by separatism or clan warfare.

The Kremlin keeps pouring money and firepower into the region, and it’s backfiring. In Chechnya and Dagestan, the human-rights group Memorial has reported a sickening history of nighttime kidnappings, rapes, and extrajudicial killings by -government-backed death squads. A senior police source in Dagestan says local clans, many of them linked to law enforcement, are encouraging the violence, seeking to bring down more chaos on rival clans. Somehow Moscow needs to break the cycle of violence—or face the possibility of trouble at the 2014 Games in Sochi, less than 200 miles from last week’s attack, in the foothills of the Caucasus.

Newsweek magazine, 7/24/10

The Caucasus rebels grow bolder and bolder, the failure of Vladimir Putin’s policies in the region grows ever clearer and more complete. And the world, finally, is getting wise to the insanity of allowing the 2014 games to push forward in this environment.

Just two weeks ago, we reported on a sensational direct attack on Ramzan Kadyrov in broad daylight in the capital of Chechnya.

Then last week, for the first time the Kremlin was forced to admit that an electric power station had been bombed and critically damaged by rebel fighters.   Instead of declining as Vladimir Putin promised it would, violence in the Caucasus region is escalating dramatically with every passings day.  And the threat to the games grows ever more dire.

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Spectacularly Costly, Olympian, Fraud in Sochi

Paul Goble reports:

Just as Moscow has often used the Soviet role in World War II as a universal moral solvent to justify or at least distract attention from whatever the Russian government has done, now Moscow appears to be invoking the threat of terrorism to the 2014 Sochi Olympics in order to distract attention from massive corruption there.

As many commentators have pointed out over the last several years, Sochi is hardly an ideal place to hold the Olympics given its proximity to the unsettled North Caucasus and the anger of many ethnic groups in that region about Moscow’s decision to destroy ecological and historical sites dear to them in order to stage that competition. But if in the past, Moscow officials have repeatedly stressed their ability to ensure security at those games, now the head of the FSB is saying that there is a definite terrorist threat. And while Aleksandr Bortnikov’s statement last week is almost certainly true, the timing of his remarks highlights what Moscow appears most concerned about – covering up corruption.

That is because over the last several weeks ever more evidence has come out that, as one Russian news service headlined its report today, “corruption is making the Sochi Olympics the most expensive in history,” a charge that could have the effect of leading more people to question the appropriateness of holding the games there.

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EDITORIAL: Finally, Russia admits the Sochi Horror


Finally, Russia admits the Sochi Horror

Now, not even the professional liars who rule the Russian Kremlin can deny it:  the world’s athletes will be risking their lives in 2014 if they are foolish enough to attend the Sochi Olympiad.

Last week, it was reported that Alexander Bortnikov, head of the FSB, had “warned that terrorists intend to disrupt preparations for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.”

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EDITORIAL: Say “NO”! to Sochi 2014


Say “NO”! to Sochi 2014

Abkhazia is a part of sovereign Georgian territory according to every country in the world except Russia, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Nauru.  Attending the 2014 Olympics under today’s circumstances would make all of us complicit in cementing in practice Russia’s changing European borders by force, even if we reject those changes in principle.

Those were the words of former U.S. ambassador to NATO Kurt Volker, one of the highest-ranking diplomats to have spoken out so far against the Sochi 2014 winter Olympiad in Russia.  Currently the managing director of the Center on Transatlantic Relations at Johns Hopkins University and a senior adviser at the Atlantic Council of the United States, Volker clearly understands that “if the United States and Europe do nothing, we will surely face an untenable situation in 2014.”

At last, while there is still time, the world is turning against the Russian atrocity in Sochi!

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EDITORIAL: The Continuing Crisis in Sochi


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.

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Russia’s Olympiad is Collapsing before our Eyes

Paul Goble reports that Russia’s failure to develop and protect the site of the 2014 Olympic Games has become so desperate that the Kremlin is considering reorganizing Russia’s basic geopoltical structure in order to preserve any hope of a successful games:

Even before the International Olympic Committee, after intense lobbying by then-Russian President Vladimir Putin, awarded the 2014 Winter Games to Sochi, it was obvious to many that Russia would face serious challenges in getting the venue ready for the Olympics and ensuring that they passed off safely.

Now, all the problems they warned about– violence in neighboring areas, environmental concerns, objections to holding such a competition on the site of a nineteenth century genocide, and both paying for infrastructure and finding workers to build it – have become more obvious, and as a result, some in Moscow are casting about for possible solutions.

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The Hydra of Terrorism in the Failed State called Putin’s Russia

Alexei Malashenko, an analyst with the Carnegie Moscow Center, writing in the Moscow Times:

Once again, Russia and the world were shocked by an atrocious terrorist attack, one in which at least 39 people were killed in the Moscow metro.

The country’s terrorists have made it clear that they are still as strong and capable as ever to strike at any time or place. The group’s main leader, Chechen rebel Doku Umarov, has been warning for years that jihad will spread to all of Russia. The suicide bombers and their supporters carried out Monday’s mission with their typical professionalism and precision. The media have reported the existence of two special schools in the Caucasus for training suicide bombers, and now those graduates have brought their “skills” to practice.

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EDITORIAL: The Sochi 2014 Madness must end Now!


The Sochi 2014 Madness must end Now!

Once again, for Russia’s own good as much as its own, we call upon the world to divest Russia of the 2014 Olympic games.  If this cannot be accomplished, we call upon all civilized nations of good faith to boycott the games and hold their own alternative.

The Russian government spent nearly $120 million preparing its athletes to compete at the Vancouver 2010 Olympiad, over five times more than it had spent preparing for the 2006 games in Turin, Italy.

The result?  Russia’s medal count decreased substantially, not even placing it in the top 10 gold medal winners, and the head of the preparation effort was forced to resign.  Russia was absolutely humiliated before a slack-jawed world.  The head of Russia’s biathalon team, which experienced the most spectacular of all Russia’s team breakdowns, stated:  “We don’t produce skis, modern waxes and lubricants, and Russian rifles are 20 percent more inaccurate than German ones and do not correspond to international standards.”

What this means is simple:  Russia’s leaders in the Kremlin were totally unable to supervise the nation’s use of precious millions, which were squandered to shocking ill effects.  In their efforts to blame underlings, Russia’s prime minister and president did not accept one iota of blame for themselves, much less did either one resign.

And what about Sochi?  Even more vast sums are being spent by a country whose citizens don’t rank in the top 130 in the world for life expectancy.  And the Kremlin tells us that it is capable of managing that expenditure and bringing off the games successfully, just as it bragged that the $120 million spent on Vancouver would yield at least 30 medals.  The claims about Sochi are, of course, every bit as ludicrous and dishonest as were the claims about Vancouver.

As we document in today’s issue, Russia is seriously neglecting many public health issues and other public concerns, such as child smoking, as it diverts massive resources away from such projects to the games, and it is not even able to pay the workers who are building the games; in today’s issue we document their shocking deprivation and suffering.

If we consider on the appalling waste of desperately needed funds and the prospect of more national humiliation for Russia, both on the playing fields and as hosts, we do not think any more reasons are necessary to justify immediately stripping Russia of the hosting duties, for its own good.  We feel the argument makes itself.

But there are, of course, many other equally important reasons that cry out for divestment.

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EDITORIAL: Russian kids Smoke themselves into the Grave


Russian kids Smoke themselves into the Grave

In today’s special issue, we argue once again that Russia must be divested of the 2014 Olympic Games.  A jaw-dropping recent report in the Moscow Times newspaper highlights the innumerable social problems that plague Russia, problems from which the Olympics is diverting essential resources at the cost of Russian lives.

The mighty MT reports that Dr. Leonid Lazebni, the Russian Surgeon General, announced that Russian children face a “catastrophe” because, in Moscow at least, three out of four boys and two out of three girls smoke cigarettes.  This contrasts with an overall smoking rate in the capital city of 24.6%.

These figures are truly shocking, of course, but even more stunning was the Keystone Cops manner in which the utterly clueless Lazebni made his presentation and in which the assembled government officials responded.

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Toxic Russia, Destroying itself and the World

The United Nations and the IOC are both condemning Russia’s appalling environmental butchery of the Sochi region as it is raped in preparation for the Olympics.  Paul Goble reports:

Thursday, Russia’s Vice Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak appealed to ecologists “not to block” the construction of facilities for the Sochi Olympic Games now planned for 2014, the latest indication of the way in which Moscow has found itself under pressure from environmental activists.

Kozak told a session of the inter-agency commission preparing for the games that UN experts had not found “major ecological problems” in their study of the environment around Sochi and that Russian ecologists should accept their conclusions rather than take steps to prevent construction from going forward

As Kommersant reported, environmentalists were not impressed by Kozak’s remarks. Igor Chestin, director of the World Wildlife Fund of Russia, said that he “does not understand how Russian ecologists can ‘block’ the Olympic project; we simply don’t have such power.”

But the situation in Sochi is a matter of deep concern, he continued, because “the ecology of the region has already suffered and now one can talk only about minimizing harm,” given that the government’s current approach, if it continues unchanged “will lead to a catastrophe with human victims.”

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Russia’s Sochi builders Starving, Living in Swill

The Moscow Times reports on the shocking living conditions of Sochi Olympics workers, or should we say saves? Robert Coalson points us to horrifying YouTube video from the scene, also embedded in the comments below.  The MT has all the details:

Hundreds of workers at an Olimpstroi-funded construction site in Sochi have not been paid in months, with some complaining that they are going hungry after giving up their passports as collateral to get food at grocery stores.

The scandal is the latest to hit Russia’s $13 billion effort to ready the Black Sea resort for the 2014 Winter Olympics. Residents displaced by construction for the games have complained that they are not being adequately compensated, while environmental activists say the work is blighting the region.

About 180 people were not working Friday, exasperated by months without pay and desperate for food, said Sergei Dykhalov, who was hired by general contractor Moskonversprom as the site’s crane operator for 36,000 rubles ($1,200) a month.

He said he hadn’t his salary since December.

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Postcard from the State of Insanity

The city of Sochi is a BEACH resort. It has PALM TREES.  What kind of maniac would decide to hold the WINTER OLYMPICS in such a place? Only a Russian could conceive of such a notion. This madness must end now.

Putin’s Russia, Putin’s Sochi: They just Don’t Work

In a brutally frank essay Alexei Bayer, writing in the Moscow Times, exposes the fundamental fraud that is the Sochi games, and the possible silver lining of holding the Olympics in Russia:  That Russia may be finally, totally, exposed before the slack-jawed world:

The Olympic flame in Vancouver has barely gone out and four years remain until the opening day of the next Winter Olympics in Sochi. But the first, most important race is already under way. From now until the closing ceremony on Feb. 23, 2014, the world will be on the edge of its seat, wondering whether Russia can pull it off.

The stakes for the Kremlin are huge. The Sochi Olympics are already different from most previous Winter Games, which were largely organized by local or regional authorities with only limited input from federal governments. Sochi, on the other hand, has always been a federal undertaking, driven by Vladimir Putin and controlled directly from Moscow. It is a national priority meant to showcase Russia’s accomplishments. In this respect, it is part of a long line of “propaganda Olympics,” which began in 1936 in Berlin and continued in Moscow in 1980, Seoul in 1988 and, most recently, Beijing two years ago.

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EDITORIAL: Annals of a Russian Purge


Annals of a Russian Purge

It sure was amusing, and terrifying, to watch the antics of Russia’s so-called “president” Dima Medvedev in the wake of his country’s calamitous failure at the 2010 Olympic Games.

First, Medvedev petulantly refused to attend the closing ceremonies in Vancouver, hiding like a child under his mothers skirts rather than face the shame and humiliation of standing with his athletes before a slack-jawed world.  How would Russians react if the leader of the country picked to take the 2018 games refuses to be in Sochi at the closing to take the Olympic flag?  Hopefully, we’ll never know because the IOC will come to its senses and divest Russia of the 2014 games.

Then, Medvedev began calling for the heads of the Russian Olympics leadership team.  Not surprisingly, however, he didnt’ say a word about the resignation of the man responsible for supervising that team, so-called “Prime Minister” Vladimir Putin, nor did he suggest that he himself might resign.  Apparently, Russia’s so-called “leaders” don’t feel they have any responsibility for selecting incompetent and corrupt fools to run Russia’s Olympics program, and therefore need not pay any consequences when that program humiliates the country before the eyes of the world.

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Putin’s Stalinist Crackdown on Sochi 2014 Information

Reporters without Borders has issued a blazing condemnation of the Putin regime’s outrageous misconduct in repressing journalists, just as Stalin did, in regard to preparations for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.  Why are you so afraid of sunshine, Mr. Putin? What do you have to hide?  On the latest RWB press freedom index, Russia ranks a shocking #153 out of 175 nations surveyed.  Only 22 countries on the planet, then, have less free media than Russia.

As today’s closing ceremony of the Vancouver Winter Olympics turns the spotlight on Sochi, the host of the next Winter Games in 2014, Reporters Without Borders would like to cast its own light on the situation of the news media in this Black Sea city and in Krasnodar, the populous southern Russian province in which it is located.

Sochi’s selection for the 2014 Games was given totally uniform coverage in the local media. Press-ganged into supporting the Kremlin policy of “the games at any cost,” they never reported the environmental concerns or the protests, such as those by the Imeretinskaya Bay residents facing eviction, except to brand them as anti-patriotic.

But this is just one symptom among many of how the media of Sochi and Krasnodar are heavily dependent on the local authorities.

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EDITORIAL: Russia’s Total, Olympian, Collapse


Russia’s Total, Olympian, Collapse

Even for a country whose history is littered with as many humiliating, disgraceful moments as Russia’s, the 2010 Winter Olympics were a startling new low.  As we’ve often said, sport is a perfect metaphor for wider failure on the part of Russia’s incompetent Kremlin, and there are signs of a silver lining for Russia in this disaster:  The government is catching plenty of flak from outraged, humiliated citizens, who at least for a few moments can see their naked emperor in all his inglorious shame, despite furious neo-Soviet attempts to lie, rationalize and otherwise explain away this pathetic failure.  All intelligent Russians are asking:  If the Kremlin has bungled Olympics preparation this badly, isn’t it possible it is bungling other things as well, things we don’t know about because the Kremlin won’t say? Whether Russians will carry this through to regime change is, of course, anybody’s guess.

Russians bragged about their expectation of a whopping 30 medals at the Vancouver Olympiad.  In the last go-round, 2006 in Italy, Russia had collected 22 medals, 8 of them gold, so arrogant, preening Russians were expecting more than a one-third improvement on the way to the Sochi games of 2014 that Russia, if the world continues its insanity, will host.  It sounded like crazily demented bluster to many of us, but we gave Russia the benefit of the doubt and waited to be impressed as Russia walked the walk.  We remained silent.

Yet, when the dust had settled, Russian athletes clutched just 15 total medals, only 3 of them gold, a one-third reduction in total medals, the exact opposite of what Russians had claimed would occur, and a two-thirds reduction in gold medals.  The USA, by contrast, won 25 medals in 2006, and improved to a whopping, devastating 37 medals in Vancouver, significantly enhancing its own medal count without any advance bluster.  In other words, it was the USA, not Russia, that ended the games actually doing what Russia had claimed, holding more than 30 Olympic medals.  Ouch.

Russia did not even make the top 10 in the gold medal count, coming in at #11,  and placed 6th in the total medal count — Russian officials had openly admitted that anything worse than 4th place would have meant absolute failure for Russia at the games. The US finished in dominant first place in the count, with three times more gold medals and more than twice as many total medals as Russia. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.

And even if Russia had actually won the 30 or more medals it planned on (something neither Russia nor the USSR had ever done), the Olympiad would still have resulted in shame and disgrace for Russia beyond the worst stereotypes imaginable.  One need look no further than the appalling misconduct and failure of Russian figure skater Yevgeny Plushenko to see the evidence.

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EDITORIAL: Annals of the Sochi Fiasco


Annals of the Sochi Fiasco

Just as the Kremlin told Russians they’d do great at the Vancouver Olympiad and turned out to be lying shamelessly, the Kremlin’s claims about being able to conduct a successful Olympiad four years from now in Sochi (a beach resort!) are equally dishonest.  You can see the failure coming just by walking into a Russian souvenir shop.

Sports Illustrated reporter Luke Winn, for instance, visted the Vancouver Olympic Village souvenir shop operated by “Bosco Sport, the Russian company that’s making all the gear for the Sochi 2014 Games.”  The photo above shows three items from the store’s shelves.  Winn calls the shop’s offerings ” the most heinous collection of merchandise I’ve ever seen at a sporting event.”  Ouch.

The red jacket on the right costs an astounding $1,199.

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EDITORIAL: Russia picks a Fight with Canada


Russia picks a Fight with Canada

Always hear the same kind of story
Break their nose and they’ll just say “sorry”
Tell me what kind of freaks are that polite?
It’s gotta mean they’re all up to somethin’
So quick, before they see it comin’
Time for a pre-emptive strike!

“Canadian Idiot”
“Weird” Al Yancovic
“Straight Outta Linwood”

Faced with unimaginable athletic humiliation on the fields of play at the Vancouver Olympiad, Russians rapidly degenerated into even more humiliatingly childish name-calling directed at the host country, leaving the Russia’s Olympic legacy in utter ruin.  When you can’t think of anything to do but insult the sweet little Canadians, you may as well just give up.

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EDITORIAL: Russia and Racism


Russia and Racism

After Russia’s pathetic, truly stunning loss to Canada in the quarterfinals of the Olympic men’s hockey tournament, NBC sportscaster Mike Millbury commented:

I was shocked that it was this one-sided. And I was really disappointed that these guys came with their euro-trash game. It was just. No heart, no guts, no nothing there to back it up. I mean Alex Ovechkin was an average player tonight. I know they’re going to bounce back, but to be that poor and to be that intimidated physically by the Canadians, that really shocked me.

Wikipedia then immediately added the following to Millbury’s entry:  “He was employed by NBC to serve as a hockey analyst during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, during which he caused some controversy by referring to the Russian team as the racist phrase ‘Euro-Trash’.”

Oops.  Wikipedia itself defines the term “eurotrash” and it pertains only to class, not race, according to Wiki.  Millbury was merely saying that the Russians played like spoiled rich kids, soft, weak and craven.  The reference to racism had to be deleted from the Wiki page.  Apparently, the fellow who wrote the Wiki entry on Millbury wasn’t a big Wiki reader himself. Too bad.  Could it have been some Russophile nationalist who rushed to smear Millbury for his tough (and accurate) criticism of Russian’s play?  Possible, very possible.

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Even the Russians know it: Plushenko is a Freak and a Fraud

Matvey Ganapolsky, writing for Huffington Post:

At the Vancouver Olympics, Evgeni Plushenko was not given the gold. Plushenko, whose feelings were hurt, told his wife, Yana Rudkovskaya, that he thought the figure skating world was “stopped.”

Ms. Rudkovskaya–a famous business woman, popular television producer and winner of the Diamond Hairpin Prize for the country’s best blonde–was even more defiant, demanding that the Russian government, “a potent and mighty power,” ought to “defend our athletes.”

Naturally, it’s immaterial that the same standards used on Plushenko’s Vancouver performance were used to judge the skate that won him gold at Turin. What’s important is that there’s been an insult not only to an athlete, but to his wife: a Russian television personality, a highly visible producer and a judge appearing on many an American Idol type show.

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