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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.