Note: This is my 36th special Window on Eurasia about the meaning and impact of the planned Olympiad on the nations in the surrounding region. These WOEs, which will appear each Friday over the coming year, will not aim at being comprehensive but rather will consist of a series bullet points about such developments. I would like to invite anyone with special knowledge or information about this subject to send me references to the materials involved. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org Allow me to express my thanks to all those who already have. Paul Goble
Putin Says All Will Be Welcome at Sochi Despite Russia’s Anti-LGBT Law. President Vladimir Putin told visiting IOC head Thomas Bach that “we will do everything …so that both the participants andguestsfeel comfortable in Sochi, regardless of ethnicity, racial heritage or sexual orientation.” He did not say that he would seek the repeal of Russia’s anti-LGBT law or that he would take new measures to stop the anti-gay and anti-minority actions that have been sweeping through the Russian Federation in recent weeks. In effect, he promised to suspect the application of Russian laws in Sochi during the Games just as the leaders of some other countries have done in the case of past Olympiads, most notoriously Adolf Hitler in 1936 (en.rsport.ru/olympics/20131028/697407864.html and nazaccent.ru/content/9535-putin-zaveril-mok-chto-na-olimpiade.html).
Anti-Gay Law Gives ‘Green Light’ to Skinheads and Fascists, LGBT Activist Says. Andrey Tanichev, owner of one openly gay club in Sochi, says that Moscow’s “idiotic law” banning gay “propaganda” to children has given “a green light to skinheads, nationalists and facists” who want to attack homosexuals. Given that homosexuality was a crime in Russia until 1993 and classified as a mental illness until 1999, the legislation is being read by many as a declaration of open season on gays, whatever the authorities say (nst.com.my/world/sochi-becomes-focus-for-gay-rights-activists-ahead-of-olympics-1.387095).
Sochi Gays Say ‘Closet Life is Safer.’ A Sochi lesbian says that “the closet life is safer” and that “we are safe as long as we do not express our feelings in the streets. But if we kiss outside of a school or kindergarten, we get arrested.” Another gay man there sas that “the less we protest on the streets, the les we blow up the scandal, the safer our lives will be” (thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/10/26/sochi-s-furtive-gay-clubs.html).
IOC Head Refuses to Meet with Russian LGBT Groups. Saying everything in Sochi is “in great shape” and that he has “no issues of concern,” IOC President Thomas Bach refused to meet with representatives of Russian LGBT organizations. Anastasia Smirnova of the Russian LGBT Sport Federation says that she sees this decision as “yet another indicator that the Sochi Olympics are far from being a plagorm to uphold and promote Olympic values,” adding that “it is now impossible to imagine an inclusive event where rights and human dignity of all are respected. The law on ‘propaganda’ is degrading in its nature, suggesting that LGBT people are dangerous to children, families, and society, and that it is the responsibility of the authorities to protect other citizens from us. It is crucial to discuss and define concretely how implementation of the non-discrimination principles will be ensured in such climate. The refusal by Thomas Bach to meet with LGBT organizations in Sochi is disappointing, but we are glad that this discussion with the IOC will still take place” (thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/ioc-president-refuses-to-meet-with-russian-lgbt-organizations-while-in-russia/news/2013/10/30/77673#.UnFnIOJcUUN).
Russian Officials Taking DNA Samples from Muslim Women in North Caucasus. In advance of the Sochi Games, Russian officials are taking DNA samples from Muslim women across the North Caucasus ostensibly so that the authorities can identify body parts if any of the latter become suicide bombers. This action, a clear violation of the Russian constitution and Russian law, will do little to increase security in the region but a great deal to further divide the Russian and non-Russian communities there and alienate the latter (blog.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/10/31/russia_is_collecting_saliva_from_muslim_women_because_terrorism and articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-10-31/news/sns-rt-us-olympics-sochi-dagestan-insight-20131030_1_sochi-olympics-dagestan-islamist-insurgency).
Putin May Extend Sochi’s Orwellian Security Measures After Them, Expert Says. The most frightening aspect of the intensive and invasive security arrangements at Sochi may not what they will mean to competitors and visitors but that they may be only a testing of these measures before they are extende to the Russian Federation as a whole, according to Mark Galeotti . Indeed, he suggests, such future applications may be the largest “legacy” of the Games themselves (www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/mark-galeotti/on-your-marks-get-set%E2%80%A6-intercept).
Blogger Expects Sweeping Crackdown Across Russia After Sochi Games. Oleg Makarenko, a businessman who blogs for Moscow’s “Vzglyad” newspaper, says that he expects Vladimir Putin to launch a sweeping crackdown across Russia immediately after the Sochi Games and set entirely new rules of the game for Russian politics and Russian life in the process (vz.ru/opinions/2013/10/24/656456.html).
Terrorist Actions, Which Had Been Falling in Russia, Seen Increasing in Coming Months. A blogger who tracks ethnic issues says that after a 50 percent decline in the number of terrorist acts over the last year, a decline Moscow has celebrated, the number of such attacks is likely to grow in the coming months not only in the Sochi region but across the country (oleg-leusenko.livejournal.com/1030266.html
Olympic Sponsors Worried about LGBT Boycott of Their Products, Olbermann Says. ESPN host Keith Olbermann says that some Sochi sponsors are getting worried that gay activists will not watch the games or buy the products produced by those firms that sponsor them. That could hurt the firm’s bottom line. “There might be an American boycott of the Olympics, but much more likely — at least reading the tea leaves of the remarks of that terrified IOC marketing chairman — much more likely is a boycott by advertisers or the American broadcasts of the Sochi Olympics,” he said. “And if the advertisers bail — and they could bail out over the Russian anti-gay laws or the Russian stance on Syria or the quality of NBC’s announcing team, it doesn’t matter which — the Russians are screwed, and the American telecasts are screwed and, in the only thing that matters to the International Olympic Committee, the International Olympic Committee is screwed.” Moreover, he added “just comparing the 2014 Sochi ‘MasterCard’ Olympics to Hitler’s master race Olympics, this has terrified the money,” the ESPN host added. “And the money terrified is money that will do what you want”(rawstory.com/rs/2013/09/10/olbermann-corporate-sponsors-terrified-that-sochi-olympics-will-be-another-master-race-olympics/
Olympic Torch Continue to Spark Problems. The Olympic flame being carried through Russia continues to spark problems. Sometimes it goes out unexpectedly, and at others it explodes in the faces of thos e carrying it. This has made it the object of political cartoons, jokes and suggestions that if Moscow can’t organize the handling of the torch relay, it certainly won’t be able to handle the Olympic Games (mskbabr.com/?IDE=120120 americanthinker.com/2013/10/welcome_to_the_danger_games.html, blogsochi.ru/content/tekhnicheskoenewsland.com/news/detail/id/1269928/ rusistka.livejournal.com/494331.html, and ruskline.ru/news_rl/2013/10/28/v_kulturnoj_stolice_rossii_pogas_olimpijskij_ogon_v_rukah_ministra_kultury/).
Torch Manufacturer Comes Under Fire. Krasmash, the Krasnoyarsk company that produces many of Russia’s missiles and submarine parts, is now better known for producing Olympic torches that don’t work. Media and government investigators are swarming over its plant trying to discover why the very expensive and guaranteed Olympic torches are not working as advertised. Company officials say they conducted an extensive testing program, but observers note that they were paid an extraordinary amount in a non-competitive process and that corruption may have trumped safety (iberiantimes.com/business/casestudy/features/siberian-company-feeling-the-heat-over-olympic-torch-for-sochi-2014/Investment
Circassians Around the World Denounce Moscow-Organized Circassian Statements. In response to what they believe was a Moscow-orchestrated declaration of support for the Sochi Games, Circassian groups and their supporters around the world have issued stinging denunciations of that group’s widely reported comments and reaffirmed their opposition to the holding of the games on the site where in 1864 Russian forces conducted genocide against their ancestors. Many of these groups said the only good thing about the Sochi Games was that this Moscow festival had had the unintended consequence of calling international attention to the Circassians and their plight not only in the North Caucasus but also in Syria (vesti-sochi.tv/olimpiada/20720-gosti-olimpiady-poznakomjatsja-s-kulturoj-cherkesov natpress.ru/index.php?newsid=8451freecircassia.ucoz.com/news/zajavlenie_mezhdunarodnogo_cherkesskogo_soveta/2013-10-30-341, circassiapassport.com/2013/10/28/international-circassian-association-and-rodinas-empty-words/ , kavpolit.com/galopom-na-olimpiadu-v-sochi/, justicefornorthcaucasus.info/?p=1251671230 kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/232398/, kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/232367/ and justicefornorthcaucasus.info/?p=1251671215).
Gastarbeiters Expelled from Sochi Say Russian Firms Bringing in Yugoslavs to Replace Them. Immigrant workers from Central Asia and the Caucasus many of whom have not been faced, forced to live in inhuman conditions, and now been expelled say Russian Olympic contracts have “just laid us off and brought in new workers. Yugoslaves, I saw the buses coming in,” an indication that the authorities want to appear to be traking a stand against illegal immigration but do no want to give up this source of cheap and often defenseless labor (telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/10414885/Sochi-chaos-behind-the-scenes-of-worlds-most-expensive-Winter-Olympics.html).
Russian Actions ‘Openly Violate’ Olympic Principles, Human Rights Watch Says. Jane Buchanan, HRW’s deputy director for Europe and Central Asia, said that the IOC has only 100 days to get Russia to stop its violations of laws and principles and urged new IOC chief Thomas Bach to take immediate steps given the illegal exploitation of migrant laborers, pressure on journalists and civic activists, and violations of ecological and historical preservation laws. She said her organization was going ahead with its plans for an Alternative Map of the Olympic Torch to call attention to human rights problems in Russian cities and regions (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/232612/).
Moscow Says Olympics Have Improved Sochi Environment … Vice Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak says Olympic construction has actually improved the environment of Sochi and its region, a view echoed by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Thomas Bach, the new head of the International Olympic Committee (ria.ru/sochi2014/20131030/973781276.html en.rsport.ru/olympics/20131030/697861615.html and http://ria.ru/sochi2014/20131030/973781276.html).
… But Pictures, Evidence and Experts Say Otherwise. But pictures taken by residents, an investigation by the Associated Press, and statements by independent and lower-ranking Russian government experts say that it will take years for the region to recover and that some of the environmental losses may be irreplaceable (kavkaz-uzel.ru/category/price_olympic, bigstory.ap.org/article/russia-breaks-zero-waste-olympic-pledge and ria.ru/science/20131025/972567480.html#ixzz2iiuHyUk9).
Russian Fans’ Racism and Violence Stirs More Anger in International Sports Groups. International sports organizations continue to react to reports about racist chants and violent acts by Russian fans, with some of these groups demanding the imposition of serious punishments on the Russians and some now talking about boycotting future competitions. Russian officials have denied most of the allegations, but they are investigating some others. The Moscow and regional Russian media are giving intensive coverage both to the charges and to the realities (en.rsport.ru/football/20131031/698061762.html, vesti.ru/doc.html?id=1148234, ej.ru/?a=note&id=23575, sport.mail.ru/news/football-worldcup/15382128/, nazaccent.ru/content/9499-vice-prezident-fifa-predlozhil-zapretit-netolerantnym-fanatam-smotret.html vesti.ru/doc.html?id=1146920, rus-obr.ru/ru-web/27252 and mirror.co.uk/sport/football/news/yaya-toure-russian-racism-could-2528238).
International Ski Federation Head Says He Won’t Be at Sochi. The Sochi Games “will not be a big party. That’s not the Russian way,” Gianfraco Kasper, the head of the International Ski Federation said, adding that the Sochi region is an inappropriate place to hold a winter competition. He said that the Sochi competition is likely to be “a turning point” in the history for the Olympics, prompting limits on the size and cost of such competitions. If the current “gigantism” continues, he said. They “will disintegrate: always more, always bigger. They’re no longer manageable, and they will get out of control”
(blogsochi.ru/content/glava-lyzhnoi-federatsii-boikotiruet-sochi sport-express.ua/rest/olympism/news/185450-glava-fis-podverg-kritike-organizatorov-olimpiady-v-sochi-sochi-2014.htmlrawstory.com/rs/2013/10/25/bad-news-olympics-fans-no-big-parties-planned-for-sochi-games/).Gay Activists Protest Sochi Olympic Event in New York. Chanting that “homophobia has got to go” and urging Americans “not to buy Putin’s lies,” a group of gay activists in New York staged a protest on the edges of a meeting in Times Square devoted to the US Olympic Team and its plans for Sochi. Duncan Osborne, a member of Queer nation, said that .“The USOC and the international community should not legitimize Russia’s violations of fundamental human rights by holding the Games in that country. Russia has placed itself well outside the bounds of global human rights standards and no international event should be held there” (lgbtqnation.com/2013/10/activists-protest-russias-anti-lgbt-laws-at-times-square-olympic-countdown/).
Sochi has Been Split into One City for the Rich and Another for Everyone Else, Residents Say. Sochi residents say that the integrity of their city has been destroyed by massive investments that benefit only a tiny number of the wealthy while disrupting the lives of the poorer majority and that the situation is only going to get worse because many of the traditional business owners there are fleeing to other cities or even abroad because of the worsening business climate they now experience (svpressa.ru/society/article/76627/).
Kozak Now Says Sochi Facilities Will Be Completed by December 25. Even though Russian officials from Vladimir Putin on down have insisted that facilities for the Olympic games are complete and need only “cosmetic” attention, Vice Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak who is overseeing them now says that they will be finished only by December 25, almost a year later than promised. He also told Moscow papers that there are enormous piles of construction debris still to be hauled away. To that end, Russian officials are recruiting students and pensioners from across the country to clean up the mess left by contractors (blogsochi.ru/content/vedomosti-kak-zhivet-sochi-za-100-dnei-do-olimpiadyblogsochi.ru/content/sto-dnei-do-prikaza).
Storm Damage to Sochi Sea Wall Threatens Olympic Construction. Vladimir Slobodyan, head of the Moscow Institute of Ecoloical Prediction and Research, says that the deformation of the coastal areas of Sochi, including damage to the sea wall there threaten Olympic facilities by weakening the soil under their foundtions. Had officials planned for these problems, they could have been addressed earlier and easier, he said, but now, fixing these problems without massive reconstruction will be hard or even imposible (blogsochi.ru/content/realnoe-olimpiiskoe-nasledie%E2%80%A6).
MVD Now Says It Will Have 42,000 Police and 10,000 Troops in Sochi for Security. Russia’s interior ministry says it is boosting the number of police and troops it will be sending to Sochi and environs for the Olympics to 42,000 and 10,000 respectively. Many of these will be send to Krasnodar kray from other regions of Russia in the near future (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/232575/).
Sochi Residents Thrown Out of Their Homes; Some May Be Expelled from Russia. Ever more Sochi residents are being expelled from their homes to allow officials to finish up Olympic construction. Some of them may even be expelled from the Russian Federation. While this process has been going on for months, it has only recently begun to attract significant media attention (sochi-24.ru/obshestvo/sudi-ograbili-babushku-policiya-pressuet-video.20131030.69970.html, sobkorr.ru/news/526F8E86419AB.html, kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/232484/ and blogsochi.ru/content/semyu-s-detmi-siloi-vystavili-na-ulitsu-v-sochi).
28,000 Georgians Sign Petition Urging Boycott of Sochi Games. Some 28,000 Georgians have now signed a petition calling on Tbilisi to boycott the Sochi Games. Some activists there have stressed that Georgia can do no less given that “Sochi was the capital of Circassia,” a nation that Georgians have close ties with, have recognized the genocide of, and are pledged to support (lasvegassun.com/news/2013/oct/28/oly-georgia-olympics/ and kavkasia.net/Georgia/2013/1382045741.php).
Russian Sports Channel Acknowleges Sochi Games to Cost 47 Billion US Dollars. Rsport.ru, which serves as the official spokesman for Russian sports, now says the Sochi Games will cost 47 billion US dollars, 40 billion of which will go to infrastructure. These amounts are almost an order of magnitude larger than Vladimir Putin has admitted and, because they are given on a site many Russian fans turn to, they are certain to increase popular anger at the amount of money being spend on this activity (en.rsport.ru/olympics/20131029/697586229.html).
EWNC Points to Continuing Legal Violations in Construction of Road to Putin Dacha. Ecological Watch on th North Caucasus reports that violations of environmental protection laws and highway construction rules continue to mount in one part of the Olympic region in particular: in the construction of the highway to Vladimir Putin’s dacha (ewnc.org/node/12980 and blogsochi.ru/content/vysokoskorostnaya-magistral-moskva-adler-okonchatelno-pokhoronit-kurortnyi-sochi).
Sochi to Be ‘Poligon for Russian Special Services,’ Soldatov and Borogan Say. Andrey Soldatov and Irina Borogan, Russia’s leading independent speciallists on the country’s secretive security services, say that Moscow is allowing the security agencies to do whatever they want in the name of security there, including many invasive procedures that violate Russian and international law (sovsekretno.ru/articles/id/3890/).
Path of Olympic Torch in Karelia Kept Secret from Journalists. Officials in Karelia have refused to tell journalists what the path of the Olympic torch will be lest the journalists or activists interfere with its passage. These officials have also create “forbidden zones” in Petrozavodsk in order to guarantee security for the torchbearers and otherwise discommoded local residents. According to one report, “hen the Olympic flame left [that city], all its residents breathed a sign of relief” (sobkorr.ru/news/526F45B5D26E0.html).
Merchandizing Russian Flag in Athletic Competitions Sparks Anger. Russians are upset that some organizers of athletic events in Russia are now allowing sponsors to put their logos right on the Russian flag, something one Russian described as “a final shame” of the country (echo.msk.ru/blog/shenderovich/1186884-echo/).
Sochi School Children Challenge Olympic Boosters. At what was supposed to be a celebration of the Sochi Games, just 100 days away, sports officials visited Sochi schools, but many pupils challenged them. One said that “it is a little strange and unusual that the winter Olympiad will take place in Sochi. It woud be better to have summer games here.” Another said she’d like to get involved in ice skating but that the local rink had been closed. And a teacher said that Olympic construction had brought crowds and lines but little of benefit to her city (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/232542/).
Sochi’s Muslim Women Get Organized. The Muslim women of Sochi have formed their own group to promote Islamic values to their families and to take part in any public exhibitions about the historical residents of the city (islamrf.ru/news/russia/rusnews/29749/).
St. Petersburg’s Hopes to Become a Future Olympic City Said ‘Wishful Thinking.’ Some in Russia’s northern capital, including Mayor Georgy Poltavchenko, would like to promote their city as the site of the 2024 Summer Games, but Russian sports writers say that this is wishful thinking until after Sochi is a success and until St. Petersburg proves it can handle such an event by successfully organizing the 2018 World Cup competition (en.rsport.ru/olympics/20131028/697410542.html).
Sochi Police Tell Jew He Can’t Pray in Public. A Sochi policeman told a visiting Jewish believer that he could not pray in a public train station but might do so in the station’s toilets. Another policeman said he could pray in public but only for 20 minutes (newsru.com/religy/29oct2013/shafit.html).
40 Percent of Russians Say Olympic Preparations Hurt Country’s Economy. Four out of ten Russians told the Public Opinion Foundation that preparations for Sochi have had “extremely negative consequences for the Russian economy,” outnumbering those who said the games were helping the economy or having no impact at all. Half of the respondents said they would like to see the Olympic torch – only 7 percent said they would be going to the games – but 34 percent said they were indifferent to the much-ballyhooed torch route (polit.ru/news/2013/10/29/wouldlike/).
Moscow Website Publishes Map Showing Neighborhoods with ‘Illegal Aliens.’ Russian State Radio’s Vesti FM published a map on its website marking on the neighborhoos that supposedly have dense populations of illegal gastarbeiters, an action that Human Rights Watch says is a virtual invitation for Russian nationalists to attack in those areas. Russian civil society activists have called for the site to take the map down, but the station has refused saying that it is “not calling for violence” and that “the map merely highlights neighborhoods, not [specific] addresses” (hrw.org/news/2013/10/28/dispatches-open-invitation-violence-russia).
Destruction in Sochi from Latest Storm Documented. A Russian blogger has posted more than 25 photographs showing the destruction of the coastline and related facilities in Sochi during the course of the latest storm. Not only do the pictures show that much now needs to be rebuilt or provided with additional foundation support, but they indicate that earlier efforts to patch things up in this area were hasty and inadequate (bednenkiy.livejournal.com/64644.html).
Sochi City Government Wants to Forcibly Close Evangelical Church. To make way for more profitable housing construction, the Sochi city administration is seeking to force the local evangelical church to close and then sell the building and land. The church is fighting back in court, but it is far from clear whether its members will be able to protect the place where they meet and pray (http://baznica.info/article/vlasti-sochi-reshili-s-molotka-prodat-khra
Sochi Said ‘Fumbling’ Its Tourist Opportunity. Most Olympic cities use the Games to promote their cities as a whole so that even after the competition people around the world will have a reason to go there, but according to Russian branding experts, Moscow has promoted the Olympics and nothing else about Sochi. That means people will associate Sochi only with the games and have little interest in going there after the Olympiad ends (themoscowtimes.com/business/article/sochi-risks-fumbling-its-olympic-tourism-opportunity/488562.html).
Moscow Has Destroyed What Society There Was in Sochi, Activist Says. Because of the legacy of the Soviet system and the actions of the current Russian government, there is no society in Sochi to take responsibility for running the city, according to a local civic activist. “There are individuls nad small grous which present only their only interests and are incapable of expressing a common Sochi-wide interest,” and that is exactly how the authorities in Moscow and in Sochi want it because the lack of broader groups gives them greater freedom of action (blogsochi.ru/content/o-samom-glavnom-%E2%80%93-kak-zhit).
Sochi Merchants Upset by Rules for Olympic Period. Sochi entrepreneurs have had to agree to get their supplies only between midnight and eight am during the period of the games, as well as agree to other restrictions on their activities, something that they say means they won’t be able to operate effectively. And they are especially angry because “not in a single one of the points of the laconic document [they have been forced to sign] is anything said about the responsibilities of the authorities” to them (blogsochi.ru/content/drovami-ne-topit-bele-ne-sushit-kak-menyaetsya-sochi-v-preddverii-igr-2014 and
Moscow Scholar Acknowledges Problems in Sochi Construction. Mikhail Lychagin, a geographer at Moscow State University, says that he does not believe that Sochi construction has had an irreversibly negative impact on the environment but acknowledges that the construction of Olympic facilities has ot been “absolutely positive” in that regard (sochinskie-novosti.com/2013/10/29/%D1%81%D1%82%D1%80%D0%BE%D0%B9%D0%BA%D0%B0-%D0%BE%D0%BB%D0%B8%D0%BC%D0%BF%D0%B8%D0%B9%D1%81%D0%BA%D0%B8%D1%85-%D0%BE%D0%B1%D1%8A%D0%B5%D0%BA%D1%82%D0%BE%D0%B2-%D0%B2-%D1%81%D0%BE%D1%87%D0%B8-%D1%83%D0%B6%D0%B5-%D0%BD%D0%B5-%D0%BD%D0%B5%D1%81%D0%B5%D1%82-%D0%BE%D1%81%D0%BE%D0%B1%D1%8B%D1%85-%D0%B7%D0%B0%D0%B3%D1%80%D1%8F%D0%B7%D0%BD%D0%B5%D0%BD%D0%B8%D0%B9-%D1%81%D1%80%D0%B5%D0%B4%D1%8B/ ).
Putin and Kozak ‘Hope for Snow’ But Order More to be Stored in Freezers. President Vladimir Putin and Vice Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak say that they “hope for snow” during next February’s games but have ordered the stockpiling of 700,000 cubic meters of the stuff just in case, almost twice as much as officials had said the authorities were keeping in freezers should the Sochi winter prove to be too mild (sochi-24.ru/obshestvo/promyshlennye-obekty-v-kudepste-likvidiruyut-zimoj.20131029.69902.html).
Sochi Residents Demonstrate in Support of Greenpeace and Arctic Sunrise. A small group of environmental activists in Sochi staged a protest in support of those Greenpeace activists on the Arctic Sunrise who have been arrested by the Russian authorities. They carried signs saying “Activism is not a crime” and “Freedom for the Arctic” (sochi-24.ru/obshestvo/v-sochi-podderzhali-aktivistov-grinpis.20131028.69868.html).
Expulsion of Gastarbeiters Eases Concerns of Some in Sochi. The roundup and expulsion of Central Asian and Caucasian gastarbeiters in Sochi has eased the concerns of some in that Olympic city that the population of their city would remain dramatically changed even after the games are over, but the departure of these workers has left many vacancies that construction and other firms are struggling to fill (sochi2014.rsport.ru/sochi2014/20131029/697547638.html).
US Sends Diplomatic Security Agents to Help in Sochi. The US embassy in Moscow says that the United States, as part of an informal agreement between Presidents Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama, has sent a team of Diplomatic Security agents to help ensure security at the Olympiad (natpress.ru/index.php?newsid=8473).
Novgorod Resident Angered when Officials Allow Georgian to Carry Olympic Torch. Residents of Novgorod are upset because Olympic officials decided, apparently at the last moment, to allow an ethnic Georgian to carry the Olympic torch through the city. Earlier, these same officials had promised two ethnic Russian girls that they would be given that honor (kavpolit.com/pircxalava-otobral-olimpijskij-ogon-u-novgorodskix-studentok/).
Thanks to Sochi Spending, Term ‘White Elephant’ Enters Russians’ Vocabulary. As a result of extraordinarily expensive projects that have little longterm benefit, a Polish commentator says, Russians are now using a new term, “white elephant,” to describe what is taking place under President Vladimir Putin (inosmi.ru/russia/20131028/214270724.html).
Sochi Corruption Case Described in Detail. Many writers have talked about the extraordinary corruption in and around Sochi, but a new article details exactly how one corrupt enterprise stole so much and so easily. It thus provides a window into a world that the Russian authorities have done their best to keep closed (blogsochi.ru/content/istoriya-odnogo-raspila).
Corruption Involved in Legalization of Illegal Construction. Many wealthy or well-connected Russians have been able to have many of their 800 illegal construction projects in Sochi blessed as legal by local officials and this combination has helped destroy the skyline of the city and undermine all previous city plans (sochinskie-novosti.com/%D1%8D%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%BD%D0%BE%D0%BC%D0%B8%D0%BA%D0%B0-%D0%B2-%D0%BA%D0%B0%D0%BC%D0%BD%D0%B5/).
Rostov Modeling Agency Advertises for Young Women to Work in Sochi During Games. A Rostov-na-Donu modeling agency has advertised for 400 attractive young women to work in Sochi during the Olympiad. Besides smiling and meeting guests, their duties are not otherwise described but they are promised earning of 400 US dollars a day (vesti-sochi.tv/olimpiada/20693-devushkam-predlagajut-rabotat-na-olimpiade-za-400-v-den).
Krasnodar Authorities Detain Civic Activists in Advance of Olympiad. The authorities in Krasnodar kray are detaining ecological and human rights activists for various periods, apparently in an attempt to intimidate them in advance of the Sochi Olympics (kavpolit.com/predolimpijskaya-zachistka/).
Moscow Unveils Underwater Machine Gun to Provide Security at Sochi. Russian officials have shown to the media their new underwater machine gun, an amphibious assault rifle which can be fired under water and above it, as part of their armory for the Olympic Games (perthnow.com.au/technology/amazing-russian-underwater-machine-gun-could-be-used-in-sochi-2014-winter-olympics/story-fnhod511-1226747777866).
Kudepsta Residents Continue Protests. Residents of the Kudepsta district of Sochi are continuing to block traffic in an effort to force the authorities to live up to their promises not to build a new power station in their area (kavpolit.com/stoyanie-na-kudepste/).
Gay Group Plans ‘Open Games’ in Moscow. The Russian LGBT Sport Federation plans to hold an “open” games in Moscow three days after Sochi in order to showcase gay sports figures and challenge Russia’s anti-gay law. Its organizer told “The New York Times” that “I’m not afraid. I’m apprehensive. We don’t know how the government will take this” (nytimes.com/2013/10/27/world/europe/open-games-in-moscow-to-test-an-antigay-law.html?_r=1&).
Russian Officials Put up a Real Potemkin Village. Russian officials have often been accused of erecting “Potemkin villages” to hide the real situation in their country, but now in Sochi, they have done so in reality, putting up large canvases with pictures of houses on them to cover unattractive and unreconstructed apartment blocks in the city (blogsochi.ru/content/potemkinskie-derevni-v-sochi-ili-olimpiiskaya-butaforiya).
Moscow TV Says West Engaged in Cold War-Type ‘Hysteria’ over Gay Rights in Russia. A Russian television channel has said that American media are engaged in a campaign to generate “hysteria” about gay rights in advance of the Sochi Games, a campaign that is unprecedented since the end of the Cold War (russian.rt.com/article/17276).
Sochi Streets Become Canals Because of Bad Drainage. The storm sewers in Sochi are so inadequate that after any heavy rain, residents say, many of the streets become like the canals of Venice with cars having to go through very deep water (blogsochi.ru/content/vo-dokanal).
Russian Nationalist Says Country Doesn’t Need Sochi Games. Maksim Kalashnikov, a Russian nationalist commentator, says that the country doesn’t need the games and that the way they have been organized is “a crime.” For what has been spent on them, it would be possible to build “a second Russia,” with new houses and social facilities for all (blogsochi.ru/content/kalashnikov-o-tselesoobraznosti-olimpiady-v-sochi).
Russian Labor Ministry Asks Regions to Send Unemployed to Sochi … The Russian Ministry of Labor has asked all the regions of the Russian Federation to send their unemployed to Sochi to help finish construction and clean up the city before the Games, the latest indication that the roundup of gastarbeiters is making it difficult for contractors to complete their work (ria.ru/sochi2014/20131025/972645562.html#ixzz2iktELw8K
Gay US Commentator May Not Speak Out in Moscow. Johnny Weir, an openly gay former US figure skating champion who will work as an NBC commentator at the Sochi Games, apparently won’t speak out against Russia’s anti-gay laws. He told the “New York Times” that he “risks jail time just going there, but the Olympics are not ht eplace to make a political statement.” But in a comment on NBC’s Today Show, he was somewhat ambiguous about what he will in fact do: “I’m a gay American. I’ve married into a Russian family … While this law is a terrible thing tht you can’t be gay publicly in Russia, I plan to be there in full support of our brothers and sisters there and not be araid. If I get arrested, I get arrested; if not, great” (en.ria.ru/sports/20131024/184338593/Gay-US-Skating-Star-to-Comment-on-Sochi-Olympics-for-NBC--Media.html and www.nytimes.com/2013/10/24/sports/outspoken-weir-will-be-quiet-on-russian-law.html?_r=2&).
Three Dozen Members of US Congress Call on USOC to Defend Gays at Sochi. Three dozen members of the US Congress have signed a letter to Scott Blackmun, head of the US Olympic Committee, calling on him to defend the First Amendment rights of US athletes against the IOC which in deference to Moscow says they must not conduct any political actions in Sochi (pjmedia.com/blog/gop-falls-short-in-standing-up-for-first-amendment-rights/).