We’ve heard it on the radio, seen it on the news, and read it on the internet…the outrageous $51 billion price tag of this year’s winter Olympics in Sochi. But, what else have we heard? When Russia won the Olympic bid in 2007, President Vladimir Putin proposed a $12 billion cost for the Games, in part to turn Sochi into “a world-class resort.” That figure, now $51 billion, holds the record for the priciest Olympic Games in history.
Up until journalists arrived in Sochi, just days before the games began, the word on the street was all about how incredible and immaculate the Sochi Games were going to be. Numerous event facilities and roads were built, an airport constructed, amazing new means of public transportation put in place, and better accessibility for the disabled was created.
Bode Miller, five-time Olympic medalist said, “The venue, the mountain is world class. It’s as nice as any of the places we ever go and it’s going to be amazing to host the Olympics here. I hope they really do as good a job they can, because the Olympics is such a perfect opportunity to showcase a venue, an area, a culture and a country…”
So, did Miller’s hopes become reality? Not quite. On Tuesday, February 4th, internet sites and news stations across America were blowing up with posts and re-posts about the conditions journalists were experiencing. Here are just a few examples.
-Harry Reekie @HarryCNN
-Stacy St. Clair @StacyStClair
-Matt Gutman @mattgutmanABC
-Mark Connolly @MarkConnollyCBC
-Simon Rosner @SimonRosner
-Dan Wetzel @DanWetzel
Although some are calling them “first-world problems,” these “problems” spread across the Twitter nation like wild fire. Within the first 24 hours, more than 26,000 tweets were sent using the hashtag #SochiProblems and the Twitter account @SochiProblems was created and gathered more than 53,000 followers.
“It’s a bit premature to say it’s been a failure. They have delivered 24,000 rooms. Surely there have been some issues, but we are really doing our best.” Adams also said that he was told “all the rooms have been delivered. The issues are connecting them to the phones, they need to be cleaned – and it’s a small number of rooms, one to three percent.”
On this same day, Wednesday, February 6th, President of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Organizing Committee, Dmitry Chernyshenko, started responding to people on Twitter himself.
Maybe Sochi wasn’t quite ready for the Games to take place after all… even $51 billion later. Where did all of this money go?
Now that the Winter Games have begun, numerous articles have been released claiming that the spending of the money may have been slightly corrupted. A recent report by anti-corruption crusader and opposition leader Alexei Navalny found that Russia paid twice as much as needed to build at least ten of the Olympic venues, and even a governmental assessment in 2012 found $430 million in “unreasonable” cost overruns.
Does that surprise you? It shouldn’t. Businessmen with close connections to the federal and regional leaders acquired several of the contracts. In a classic story of Russian business, companies belonging to Vladimir Putin’s old judo companion Arkady Rotenberg were presented $7.4 billion of Olympic contracts. As for the rest? We’ll find out as the story unfolds.