Friday, February 7, 2014
Window on Eurasia: Sochi Countdown – The Olympiad in the North Caucasus Begins
Note: This is my 50th — and last — special Window on Eurasia about the meaning and impact of the Sochi Olympiad. I want to thank all of you who have provided me with citations, who have offered perspectives, and who have corrected my mistakes. I very much hope that the Sochi Games, however ill-advised and ill-prepared they have been, will take place without violence or greater repression. Many thanks. Paul Goble firstname.lastname@example.org
Circassians in Nalchik Today Protest Against Sochi; Russian Officials Arrest 25. Police detained 25 people today in Nalchik who were taking part in a demonstration against the opening of the Olympics on the site where Russian forces killed and expelled hundreds of thousands of their ancestors and on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of this event. Russian hackers have also blocked several Circassian sites in hopes of limiting news of this and other events. Circassians have been overwhelmingly opposed to holding the games in Sochi since that decision was announced in 2007. They have called for a boycott without success but they have succeeded in two regards. On the one hand, the Circassian movement is more, not less united than it has been since 1864, despite Moscow’s exploitation of some small groups over which it has influence, and the Circassian cause has attracted more intention than ever before, forcing the Russian authorities to take counter-measures, including repression, the mobilization of Russian historians to put out Moscow’s line, and active measures to divide Circassian organizations in the North Caucasus and internationally. Circassian demonstrations are taking place elsewhere in the North Caucasus and are occurring or planned for today in New York and other cities. Despite such acts of repression, the Circassians remain committed to peaceful means to advancing their cause (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237822, avrom-caucasus.livejournal.com/327309.html, unpo.org/article/16805, al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/02/turkey-olympics-cicassian-identity-ethnicity-chechen.html, lapresse.ca/international/europe/201206/07/01-4532506-les-circassiens-de-sochi-le-nouveau-cauchemar-de-moscou.php,ft.com%2Fintl%2Fworld%2Feurope#axzz2sDYNPhmZ,freecircassia.ucoz.com/news/akcii_protiv_olimpiady_na_zemle_cherkesskogo_genocida/2014-02-07-369 and apsny.ge/2014/soc/1391823996.php).
Sochi has Hurt Putin Because of the Claims He Made for It, Commentators Say. Precisely because Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the Sochi Olympiad marked Russia’s return to the world stage and a triumph for his policies, commentaries on the games, the result of unprecedented media attention not just to Sochi but to Russia as a whole, have suggested that for the Kremlin leader, the games are anything from bitter medicine to a complete fiasco. Had Putin made fewer claims for the games, he and Russia more generally would likely have been subject to less criticism. Now, those who hope the games will succeed have lowered the bar and suggest that as long as there is snow and there are no terrorist incidents, Putin can claim a triumph. While a few Western analysts have expressed hope that Putin will change course, most have argued that the Sochi Olympiad and its shortcomings suggest that Putin and his regime are in trouble and will likely become even more repressive to remain in power. The impact of such Western criticism has been far greater in Russia than many suspect. Not only have Russians been able to read Western reports via the Internet, but the media in Russia at all levels has been obsessed with Western coverage, reporting it even when it is the most negative (foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/01/31/sochi_s_bitter_medicine,washingtonpost.com/opinions/will-russias-olympics-be-putins-triumph/2014/01/31/0ced08c4-885d-11e3-916e-e01534b1e132_story.html, voanews.com/content/sochi-olympics-putin-legacy-liability/1843882.html, kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237728/,rufabula.com/news/2014/02/05/sochi-will-weaken-putin, forum-msk.org/material/kompromat/10225514.html, worldaffairsjournal.org/blog/vladimir-kara-murza/putin%E2%80%99s-olympic-calamity,chathamhouse.org/media/comment/view/197068?dm_i=1TY5%2C25SX3%2CBHZK6Z%2C7T6YB%2C1,sonicweapons.net/post/75479674775/for-putin-the-olympic-games-are-an-attempt-to, washingtonpost.com/opinions/jackson-diehl-putin-is-losing-the-sochi-olympic-game/2014/02/02/bf69db1a-89cc-11e3-916e-e01534b1e132_story.html,nr2.ru/moskow/482845.html, en.rsport.ru/olympics/20140204/720496829.html,cfr.org/russian-federation/russia-after-sochi/p32322 http://dv-gazeta.info/news/nakanune-sochinskoy-olimpiadyi-zapad-izdevaetsya-nad-putinyim-podborka-karikatur.html,washingtonpost.com/world/olympic-dream-in-sochi-internet-in-the-hotel/2014/02/01/8cc5d6fe-8a8b-11e3-916e-e01534b1e132_story.html?wprss=rss_world and echo.msk.ru/blog/echomsk/1248876-echo/).
Polls Show Russians Want Sochi to Succeed but are Upset by Costs. Polls conducted by VTsIOM and the Levada Center show that a majority of Russians want the Games to be a success and to show Russia in a good light, but many respondents say they are angry about the enormous amounts of money and massive corruption preparation for the Olympics has involved. And most say they have no plans to attend but will watch the competitions on television( svoboda.org/content/article/25252898.html,
ej.ru/?a=note&id=24347, vedomosti.ru/sochi-2014/news/22319281/olimpiad-bolshe-ne-nadoand gazeta.ru/social/news/2014/02/01/n_5917585.shtml).
If IOC had Known What It Does Now, It Might Not have Selected Sochi, Former IOC Member says. Els van Breda Vriesman, a former Dutch member of the International Olympic Committee, says that if the IOC had known that Russia would violate its pledges on the environment and other issues, it might not have voted for holding the games in Sochi but instead awarded them to another city (nos.nl/os2014/artikel/597575-olympisch-comite-betreurt-sotsji.html).
Kozak, in Condemning Media Complaints about Hotels, Digs Himself into a Deeper Hole. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak who is overseeing the Olympiad for Moscow and who like many other Russian officials has been upset by journalistic accounts about in Sochi, said “we have surveillance video from the hotels that shows people turn on the shower, direct the nozzle at the wall and then leave the room for the whole day.” One of his spokesman then had to backtrack and declare that Moscow has not installed surveillance camersin hotel rooms or bathrooms in the hotels there (wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304680904579366712107461956). For a survey of additional Russian complaints about Western media coverage and suggestions that such treatment is intended to besmirch Russia as a result of Russophobia rather than to report the facts, see newrepublic.com/article/116507/russians-hit-back-west-cool-it-olympic-schadenfreude).
Sochi Anything But Ready, Journalists Say. Save for the decision to hold a Winter Olympics in a subtropical zone near an ongoing insurgency, no choice that Moscow made concerning the games has had more unintended and unwelcome consequences than the one to bring hundreds of journalists to the city in southern Russia a week in advance of the games and to hotels and facilities which even the Russians acknowledged were either not completed at all or suffered from serious shortfalls, although the top Russian officials said that everything was 97 percent ready and that there had been only a few complaints lodged with them. Not surprisingly, the journalists had a field day, writing up their travails, annoying the Russians and prompting the IOC to demand that Moscow take immediate action to ensure that accommodations for the journalists were fixed and fixed quickly, a rare example of the IOC making a public demand on the Russian authorities for anything. What made these stories so damaging was that they dominated Western coverage in the week before the games are to start and reports about these difficulties seeped back into the Russian media as well. Among the many articles that arose from these decisions and shortcomings aresports.yahoo.com/news/no-light-bulbs–no-shower-curtain–no-hot-water–welcome-to-sochi-202446189.html, businessinsider.com/sochi-hotel-photos-2014-2,france24.com/fr/20140205-jeux-olympiques-sotchi-2014-face-cachee-journalistes-retard-travaux/, foxnews.com/sports/2014/02/05/sochi-squalor-journalists-report-hotel-horror-stories-as-russians-scramble-to/,mobile.twitter.com/StacyStClair/status/430550673977913344/photo/1?screen_name=StacyStClair, sportingnews.com/sport/story/2014-02-04/2014-sochi-olympics-winter-photos-pictures/, washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2014/02/04/journalists-at-sochi-are-live-tweeting-their-hilarious-and-gross-hotel-experiences/,telegraph.co.uk/travel/snowandski/skiing-news/10617425/Sochi-2014-chaos-at-Winter-Olympics-resort.html, nytimes.com/2014/02/04/sports/olympics/sochi-remains-a-work-in-progress-as-games-draw-near.html?hp&_r=3, deadspin.com/staying-in-sochi-is-a-hilarious-adventure-1515722114,
kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237651/, abc15.com/dpp/news/national/Sochi-Olympics-Hotels-report-construction-delays-days-before-start-of-the-Winter-Games,facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=482088698563536&set=a.287739554665119.56204.100002872312116&type=1&theater, usatoday.com/story/sports/olympics/sochi/2014/02/01/sochi-oylmpics-preparation-media-hotels/5109567/,
15 Signs Sochi Isn’t Ready for Games. The “Washington Post” provided a list of 15 signs that Sochi isn’t ready for the games and that the Olympics “could get off to a bumpy start.” Among them are the following: “the Olympic flame went out 44 times,” mass killings of stray animals, blocking political activists from coming to games, terrorists, online photos of “’Sochi problems,’” and “gross and hilarioius hotel mishaps,” including one hotel without a floor but with a large picture of Vladimir Putin. That list could easily be extended (washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2014/02/05/15-signs-that-russia-is-not-very-ready-for-the-olympics/).
Western Media Shouldn’t Complain about Sochi Corruption as It’s Not Their Money,Voice of Russia Says. The Voice of Russia has coe up with a new argument against Western media reports about massive corruption at the Games: the money involved “is not take out of their pocket, for heaven’s sake” and therefore can be viewed as “a tax” to compensate other Russian taxpayers for the wealth of the oligarchs (voiceofrussia.com/news/2014_02_03/The-media-s-crusade-against-Sochi-where-does-the-whistle-blow-from-8075/).
IOC President Says Sochi is “Ready for Best Olympiad in History.” IOC President Thomas Bach says that “everything is ready” in Sochi for the best games in Olympic history and that he is especially pleased that 80 percent of the competitors will be close enough to walk to the venues (vesti-sochi.tv/olimpiada/22650-prezident-mok-sochi-polnostju-gotov-k-provedeniju-luchshej-v-istorii-olimpiady).
Trash Heaps Still Mar Sochi Landscape. Russians have promised to cart away illegal trash dumps throughout Sochi and have even devoted all-night efforts to eliminate the largest piles near where visitors to the games will pass. But despite that, Sochi residents say, many trash heaps still remain, especially in neighborhoods away from Olympic tourist routes (privetsochi.ru/blog/Vokrug_Sochi/41400.html, svpressa.ru/Olympic2010/article/81544/ andhttp://blogsochi.ru/content/chisto-ne-tam-gde-metut-tam-gde-garazhi-ne-snosyat).
Having Despoiled Sochi Environment, Russian Officials Harass Ecology Activists. As evidence mounts as to just how seriously Moscow’s approach to Olympic construction had on the environment there, Russian officials have stepped up their efforts to harass environmental activists or at least ensure that they are not accessible to Western journalists or have court dates before the end of the Games that might attract more attention (washingtonpost.com/sports/olympics/sochi-activist-to-be-detained-during-olympics/2014/02/03/2f7804e0-8ce3-11e3-9ed8-259977a48789_story.html,ewnc.org/node/13527, kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237679/, kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237674/,ewnc.org/node/13496, science.time.com/2014/01/30/sochi-winter-olympics-environmental-damage/, ewnc.org/node/13532, ewnc.org/node/13530, ca.sports.yahoo.com/news/second-activist-3-days-jailed-sochi-area-olympics-091332317–oly.html?soc_src=mediacontentstory,
Security Measures Make TV Best Way to See Games. Security is so dense in Sochi, with more police than people in many locations, that some security companies are suggesting that fans should not go to Sochi but rather watch on television and leading other security experts like Tyrus Cobb to ask whether, given all the security that is necessary, such competitions are worth the costs and risks (sportsmanagementdegreehub.com/olympics/,usatoday.com/story/sports/olympics/sochi/2014/02/03/sochi-winter-olympics-2014-security-threats-military-police-black-widow/5193141/ and nationalsecurityforum.org/).
US Warns Russia of Possible Toothpaste Bombs ahead of Sochi. The US government has warned the Russian authorities and US airlines that they have evidence, unspecified, that terrorists may seek to carry bombs hidden in toothpaste tubes from the US to Sochi. US officials said they were acting “out of an abundance of caution” rather than because of a direct and immediate indication of a threat (mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/sochi-2014-terror-alert-warns-3116206).
Moscow Officials Say Circassians Can Only Be ‘Pawn’ for Others. An Israeli specialist on the North Caucasus says that Russian officials dismiss the possibility that the Circassians will ever be able to reconstitute their state in that region. “The most that [the Circassians] are capable of is to be a pawn in the geopolitical games of the great peoples,” he says they say (avrom-caucasus.livejournal.com/326861.html).
Despite Objections of Most Circassians, 26 Will Attend Sochi Games, Russian Officials Say. Numerous Circassian organizations have said that any Circassian who goes to Sochi will be a traitor to the national cause. But despite that, 15 will attend the opening ceremony and another 11 will come later, Russian officials say. Moscow has not identified them, but Circassian activists suspect they are people who have business interests in the North Caucasus over whom Moscow has influence or those who are subject to some other form of pressure (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237714/ andfacebook.com/dalal.shaker.73/posts/404590539687339).
Circassian Exhibit Opens in Sochi. A 600 square meter Adygey House opened in Sochi today, Moscow’s nod to the IOC requirement that host countries acknowledge the indigenous peoples of the area where the games are held. It is located ten meters from Switzerland House and was prepared by Krasnodar Kray officials rather than Circassian experts and activists (kavkazoved.info/news/2014/02/04/cherkesskij-kolorit-olimpiady.html).
Visitors to Sochi Will Be Using Circassian Words Even if They Don’t Know It. While Moscow seems committed to reducing any reference to the Circassians who lived in the Sochi area before the genocide of 1864, visitors and competitors will find themselves using Circassian words all the time because most of the toponyms in the area are of Circassian origin and even some of the venues, such as Fisht Stadium, have Circassian names (kavkazoved.info/news/2014/02/05/olimpijskie-ozhidania-korennoj-narod-sochi-gotovitsja-k-vstreche-zimnih-igr.html).
Moscow Enlists Historians, Archaeologists to Present Its Version of Circassian History. Over the past year, the Russian Academy of Sciences has published selections of documents designed to spread Russia’s understanding of what occurred in the North Caucasus at the time of the tsarist conquest and to undercut the arguments of Western historians and Circassian activists. Now, Moscow had stepped up that effort, organizing a meeting of historians tasked with coming up with a single approved version of the events in the North Caucasus and enlisting an archaeologist working in Sochi to suggest after preliminary work that there is no confirmation for suggestions that there were mass graves in or near that city that Circassians have insisted must exist. The archaeologist in question does acknowledge that ground conditions there make it unlikely that human remains would survive for very long (mk.ru/social/article/2014/01/30/978147-na-finishe-olimpiyskoy-trassyi-v-sochi-arheologi-nashli-yazyicheskoe-svyatilische.html and nazaccent.ru/content/10463-eksperty-nauchnomu-soobshestvu-nuzhno-opredelitsya-s.html)
Two Pounds Open in Sochi But Killing of Homeless Animals Continues. Following widespread criticism of a program to kill homeless animals, Russian officials opened one small pound in Sochi, which critics said was little more than “a concentration camp” for dogs, and Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska opened a second. But despite those steps, Russian officials continued to defend the program, demanding that critics explain how they would react if a homeless dog were to run into a competition area, and ae continuing it. In fact, officials have now placed a bounty for each dead animal, an arrangement that many fear will lead to indiscriminate killing of pets as well as genuinely homeless animals (theguardan.com/world/2014/feb03/sochi -pest-control-stray-dogs-winter-olympics, livingfreedom.ru/content/novyi-priyut-v-sochi-kontslage-dlya-zhivotnykh, and the moscowtimes.com/sochi2014/Dog-Rescuers-Save-Sochi-Canines-Condemned-to-Death).
Olympic Construction Destroyed Bird Sanctuary. Despite promises to stage the greenest Olympics in history, Moscow has destroyed much of the environment, most prominently the Sochi Orthnithological Park in Imeretia where the Olympic Park now stands. That site which had been a swampy area populated by numerous species o f birds has now been paved over, and the birds are gone, never to return, ecologists say (gazaryan-suren.livejournal.com/123765.html
Toilet Bowl Story Just Won’t Stop Running. Ever since the BBC posted a picture of two commodes in a single stall in Sochi, new reports have come in of even more absurd toilet stories, including but not limited to, a toilet where the seat was fastened in a way that made it impossible to use the commode, a toilet stall in which there were chairs facing the toilet, and sets of rules for those using toilets. Not surprisingly, all these stories and the accompanying pictures have gone viral on the Internet (twitter.com/OnlyRussians/status/430788946239299584/photo/1
Sochi’s Muslims Still Don’t have a Mosque, Told to Use One 50 Miles Away. Since 1996, the 20,000 Muslims have been seeking official approval to build a mosque. They haven’t gotten it and consequently do not have a regular place to pray. Officials have told them that they should use the single-room mosque in a village of 180 people, 50 miles from Sochi and not on any rail line (worldbulletin.net/news/128318/still-no-mosque-in-sochi-as-winter-games-approach).
Trash Disposal in Sochi Threatens Environment, Public Health. The gasification method that Russian officials are using to dispose of the massive amounts of construction debris and other trash threatens to contaminate the environment and thus become a threat to the health of all those who drink the water in the area, according to Russian and international experts (ewnc.org/node/13533).
Sochi Officials Should Focus on Physical Rather than Political Security, Russian Opposition Figures Says. Security officials in Sochi are devoting greater efforts to ensuring political stability – that is, the absence of any dissent or criticism of Vladimir Putin – than they are to guaranteeing the physical security of participants and fans at the Games, according to Boris Nemtsov and Dmitry Oreshkin, two leading Russian opposition figures say. The FSB clearly understandings, Oreshkin said, that it is responsible for “political security” and that is why it is using the fan passport system, arrests, and harassment to keep anyone who might object to the Putin games away from Sochi (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237760/).
Putin’s Press Secretary Says Sochi Security ‘100 Percent Ready.’ Dmitry Peshkov, press secretary for the Russian president, says that “the system of security for the Sochi Olympiad is 100 percent ready and all offers of foreing colleagues for assistance are being accepted with gratitude.” One hopes that the first half of this sentence is true, but early reports by Western and Georgian officials that their offers had been turned down mean that the second is not (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237749/).
‘Second Class Russian Citizen’ Complains to Putin. Sergey Fadeyev, editor of “Kaluga Vchernyaya,” who describes himself as “a second class Russian citizen” because he has been turned down by Sochi officials when he applied for a fan passport, has written an open letter to President Vladimir Putin complaining about his fate, noting that he has never been involved in any militant or opposition activities – although some in the regime may view this letter as an indication that he now is — and therefore deeply resents the way he has been treated. All he wanted was to go to Sochi and cheer on Russia’s atheletes, but now he can’t (civitas.ru/news.php?code=14489).
Moscow Writer Says Freedom House Using Sochi Games to Harm Image of Russia. Freedom House, which receives much of its funding from the US State Department, plays “the bad cop” in Washington’s relations with Moscow and is seeking to besmirch the image of Russia as a whole by its comments on the Sochi Games, according to Stanslav Apetyan, a Moscow commentator (politonline.ru/comments/15232.html).
Moscow Failed to Live Up to Its Olympic Commitments, German Paper Says. “Tagesspiegel” says that Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian Olympic Committee have failed to live up to their commitments given to the IOC when they sought and won the right to host the Sochi Games. The German paper says that the Russians operated under the principle “We make promises but don’t keep them” (nr2.ru/inworld/483062.html).
Not All Russian Oligarchs Made Out Like Bandits at Sochi. Many of the oligarchs who have been involved with construction for the Olympics have made enormous fortunes, but others have suffered serious financial reverses and even bankruptcies, although the latter may be intended to hide earnings. However, if many of them are unhappy with the outcome, that could pose a new challenge to the Kremlin, some observers suggest (online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303277704579346752538115002?mod=WSJEurope_hpp_LEFTTopStories and http://blogsochi.ru/content/oni-soshli-s-distantsii-ne-dozhdavshis-olimpiady).
Muscovites Protest Sochi Games. More than 10,000 people assembled outside the headquarters of the Russian Olympic Committee in Moscow to protest the enormous sums of money that have been spent on the Sochi Olympiad, an event the official media largely ignored but that was widely covered in the blogosphere. Some carried signs saying that “where there are political prisoners, there is no place for an Olympiad” (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=52F21995DEBF1, kasparov.ru/material.php?id=52F20301EF963, andgrani.ru/Politics/Russia/activism/m.224189.html).
Kuzbass Miners Call for Strike on Opening Day of Olympiad. Perhaps hopeful that officials will feel compelled to settle lest Russia get another public relations black eye, the miners in the Kuzbass reigon have announced that they will strike on February 7, yet another example of the way people are making calculations about the timing of their actions by taking Putin’s Games into account (svpressa.ru/society/article/81766/).
Sochi Residents Continue to Suffer from Power Outages and Water Cutoffs. Despite official promises, Sochi residents still face power outages, water and sewage cutoffs, and problems with the city administration and public utilities. This week, the arrival of large numbers of visitors added to their travails, cutting off their access to stores, leading to traffic tie ups, and making it difficult for some to get to work. Some complained that signs were wrong and that traffic lights and street crossing buttons weren’t working, and the residents of one district complained that Putin and his entourage wouldn’t receive their protests and that the Moscow media didn’t cover their complaints (http://www.privetsochi.ru/blog/auto_sochi/41271.html,privetsochi.ru/blog/bred_sochi/41229.html,
privetsochi.ru/blog/Flood/41451.html and blogsochi.ru/content/razrukha-v-parke-kirova-v-lazarevskom-za-1-den-do-pronosa-olimpiiskogo-fakela).
‘Terrorists have Already Won’ at Sochi, Golts Says. In a commentary in “Yezhdnevny zhurnal,” Aleksandr Golts says that the terrorists have already won in Sochi because every time Russian officials say that everything is secure, they call attention to the underlying security problems of the North Caucasus, something that will be true even if the Games themselves take place without violence (ej.ru/?a=note&id=24339).
Americans Worried about Sochi Security, Not Human Rights in Russia, Survey Finds. According to a survey conducted by the Pew Foundation, 44 percent of Americans believe that it was a mistake to award the 2014 Winter Olympics to Russia, 12 percent more than said it as “a good decision.” Butof those who said it was a bad decision, 62 percent said that was because of security problems in the Sochi area, a number 15 timesmore than those who said that was because of gay rights or the nature of the Russian regime (washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2014/02/04/americans-dont-want-olympics-in-russia-but-not-because-they-care-about-human-rights/?tid=up_next).
Attacks on Gays in Russia Continue … Because the Russian authorities have failed to protect LGBT people and instead have allowed those who engage in it to get off without punishment while bringing charges against some for engaging in what they call ”gay propaganda,” international rights groups and a letter signed by more than 200 of the world’s most prominent writers say, attacks on gay people in Russia continue despite Moscow’s promises that everyone regardless of sexual orientation will be welcome at Sochi (hrw.org/news/2014/02/03/russia-sochi-games-highlight-homophobic-violence,newizv.ru/accidents/2014-02-03/196413-protiv-uralskoj-zhurnalistki-vozbudili-delo-za-gej-propagandu.html and telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/10620893/More-than-200-leading-authors-protest-against-Russias-anti-gay-and-blasphemy-laws.html).
… Sparking New Protests Abroad … LGBT groups have announced that they will organize demonstrations against Russia’s anti-gay laws and practice in 19 cities around the world over the course of the Sochi Olympiad (rus-obr.ru/days/29322).
… Some Athletes Plan to Protest but Others Say They’re Afraid to … Some Olympic competitors say they will speak out against Russia’s anti-gay legislation but others say they won’t do anything lest they “jeopardize” their Olympic “dream,” an indication that Russian policies are intimidating at least some of the participants http://www.bbc.com/sport/0/winter-olympics/25932270 and bustle.com/articles/14474-sochi-olympics-lgbtq-strife-gets-personal-for-athletes-but-will-anything-change).
… While Sochi Gay Clubs Plan to Welcome Visitors. Meanwhile, and despite Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov’s suggestion that there are no gays in his city, Sochi’s gay clubs are openly preparing for an influx of customers during the Olympics (ft.com/intl/cms/s/7cecc80e-8a87-11e3-9c29-00144feab7de,Authorised=false.html).
AT&T Condemns Russia’s Anti-Gay Legislation. AT&T became the first major US corporation to denounce Russia’s law against gay propaganda to children, something none of the companies which are sponsors of the Games have felt themselves able to do (huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/04/att-russia-anti-gay_n_4724374.html).
Potemkin Village-Style Cover Ups in Sochi Labelled ‘Gift from Putin.’ Large tarps being thrown over buildings in Sochi that officials judge to be too ugly for visitors’ eyes have pictures of beautiful buildings or scenes on one side and the legend “a gift from Putin” on the other (anonymous.fm/novosti/nepriglyadnyie_chasti_sochi_na_vremya_olimpiadyi_zavernutyi_v_plakatyi).
NBC Warns about Russian Hacking and Phone Tapping in Sochi. NBC, which will carry the Sochi Games on American television, told its audience that “if you have sensitive data that you don’t want stolen, then don’t bring it to Sochi. And if it’s too late for that, then don’t talk about sensitive topics” while there. NBC reporter Richard Engel says he and his colleagues were hacked “almost immediately” and malware allowing the Russians to tap or record phone calls was inserted. He noted that the US government has said that visitors to Sochi “should have no expectation of privacy. Even in their hotel rooms. And as we found out, you are especially exposed as soon as you try and communicate” (businessinsider.com/hackers-in-sochi-2014-2 and
FSB has Made Eavesdropping ‘an Olympic Event,’ Soldatov Says. Andrey Soldatov, Russia’s leading independent researcher on Russian security agencies, says that the FSB has been pleased that the Snowden revelations have distracted attention from the activities of Russian services, especially since these services have stepp up their activities in Sochi. He notes that Western rights activists continue to focus more on what the US is doing than on what Russia is, despite the fact that Russia at least in Sochi may be playing a far more invasive game (themoscowtimes.com/opinion/article/fsb-makes-eavesdropping-an-olympic-event/494053.html). For a broader discussion of this issue, see the article by Sufian Zhemuhov and Robert W. Orttung in the new issue of “Problems of Post-Communism” atmetapress.com/content/hq65k7637884/.
Moscow Using Fan Passport Requirement to Exclude Dissent. Many had expressed concern that the Russian authorities would use the unprecedented requirement for fan passports for those who want to attend the games to gather information about Western visitors for the intelligence services. That is still a possibility, but it seems clear that the Russian government adopted this measure in the first instance to ensure that it could keep anyone likely to criticize the games out of Sochi and thus out of reach of Western journalists. It has denied such documentation to political opponents and to members of certain ethnic groups likely to complain, and rights workers say that there is very little hope that those who appeal their rejections will win before the games are over, despite rules that say decisions are to be rendered within 72 hours (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237704/, kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237593/,kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237583/, kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237506/, sochinskie-novosti.com/2014/01/31/%D0%BD%D0%B0%D0%B2%D0%B0%D0%BB%D1%8C%D0%BD%D1%8B%D0%B9-%D0%BF%D1%80%D0%BE%D1%81%D0%B8%D1%82-%D1%81%D0%BB%D0%B5%D0%B4%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%B0%D1%82%D0%B5%D0%BB%D1%8F-%D0%BE%D1%82%D0%BF%D1%83%D1%81%D1%82%D0%B8%D1%82%D1%8C-%D0%B5%D0%B3%D0%BE-%D0%B2-%D1%81%D0%BE%D1%87%D0%B8/ andecho.msk.ru/programs/exit/1247672-echo/#element-text).
IOC, Moscow Struggle to Get on Same Page on Dissent. IOC President Thomas Bach’s statement that Olympians have the right to express their opinions freely on any subject at their press conferences prompted Dmitry Chernyshenko, head of the Russian organizing committee, to say that he didn’t believe Olympic rules allowed that. The Russian official subsequently backed down, saying that Moscow is “fully aligned with the position of the IOC.” (theindychannel.com/sports/olympics/2014-sochi-olympics/ioc-to-review-sochis-final-preparations-security and foxnews.com/sports/2014/01/30/sochi-olympics-organizers-back-track-on-athletes-free-speech-rights/).
Torch Travails Continue Right into Sochi. As the Olympic torch made its way to Sochi through the North Caucasus, it continued to go out on occasion, to spark protests and complaints by residents upset that they were being ordered to attend or that the routes were being changed, and to feature a massive Russian security presence. The torch’s problems did not end when it arrived in Sochi for a three-day run. There people complained they couldn’t find out about the route – officials said they weren’t releasing it early out of security considerations – called Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov “a shit carrier” when he carried the torch (the words are closer to torch bearer in Russian), and compared the Olympic flame that will burn during the games to an industrial site or worse because of the dark smoke that came out of it during a test (http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237474/,navalny.livejournal.com/903195.html, kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237737/,blogsochi.ru/content/fekalonosets, sobkorr.ru/news/52EF45F84C2C3.html, kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237646/, kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237586/, blogsochi.ru/content/sochi-v-ozhidanii-estafety-olimpiiskogo-ognya and bigcaucasus.com/events/analysis/31-01-2014/88974-olymp-0/).
Latest Storm Complicates Life in Sochi. Another serious storm the weekend before the Games are to start flooded low-lying areas, downed trees and caused power outages, and forced Russian officials to send in additional workers to repair the damage to roads, sidewalks, and Olympic facilities. That allowed some officials to complain that weather was to blame for the failure of some hotels to be ready in time (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237520/, blogsochi.ru/content/plyazh-imeretinskii%E2%80%A6-vernee-chto-ot-nego-ostalos,blogsochi.ru/content/ocherednoi-pozor-za-nedelyu-do-olimpiady andprivetsochi.ru/blog/extreme_sochi/41242.html).
Sewage Leaks Still a Problem in Many Parts of Sochi. Many sewage lines either leak or have been improperly connected in various parts of the Olympic city, prompting widespread complaints about the smell and fears about the public health consequences. Pictures posted online show just how inadequate the system still is despite official promises that everything would be in order by the time of the opening ceremony (privetsochi.ru/blog/sochi2014/41241.html privetsochi.ru/blog/bred_sochi/41634.html
Sochi has ‘Perfect Avalanche Conditions.’ When it does get a large amount of snow, the International Snow Science Workshop has concluded, the climate and topography of the region make it a likely place for avalanches” (cbsnews.com/news/sochi-olympics-ground-zero-for-avalanches/).
If the Grass isn’t Green in Sochi, Paint It. Because construction has run so far behind schedule, many buildings are surrounded by mud or just patches of grass. Russian workers have come up with a quick fix: they are painting the ground green. Pictures of one doing that have gone viral on the Internet (znak.com/urfo/news/2014-02-05/1017816.html andtwitter.com/EvgenyFeldman/status/430970917758697472/photo/1).
English Spellings on Sochi Signs Leave Much to Be Desired… Many signs which feature English translations of Russian instructions recall those in Malcolm Bradbury’s classic satire of Eastern European states during the Cold War, “Welcome to Slaka.” One sign, for example, said visitors should not walk with “durdy shoeses” on the snow. London’s “Telegraph” said “we could comment, but our Russia isn’t so good” (theinsider.com.ua/lifestyle/kak-v-internete-smeyutsya-nad-olimpiadoi-v-sochi/).
… While Other Signs are Troubling in Any Language. One sign at a checkpoint on the edge of Sochi asked drivers to “check for guns in tanks” before proceeding further (twitter.com/search?q=%23SochiProblems).
Soviet Sports Art Informs Sochi Opening Ceremony Stage. As any number of people have already noticed, the backdrop for the opening of the Sochi Olympiad recalls the monumentalism and stylistics of Soviet-era art. As one commentator put it delicately in a reporton an exhibit of Soviet sports art, competition “haslong been a key plank of Russian propaganda, from triumphant medalists … to mass parades of agile beautifies and clean-limbed muscle-men … while Soviet-era architecture design, literature, cinema and music all command international interest, visual arts have tended to lag behind” (readrussia.com/2014/02/05/soviet-sport-on-the-eve-of-sochi/).
Terrorism Will Continue in the North Caucasus. Even if Moscow succeeds in preventing a terrorist incident during the Olympiad, there will be more terrorist attacks in the North Caucasus in the future. According to Ekaterina Sokiryanskaya of the International Crisis Group, “you don’t need much to do this. You need a committed jihadi and a bomb, which is quite cheap and you can make it at home. It’s difficult to deal with” (mobile.nytimes.com/2014/02/05/world/europe/an-olympics-in-the-shadow-of-a-war-zone.html?referrer=).
Sochi Builders Install Bricks without Cement. Either because they are pressed for time or because they want to cut corners for other reasons, some Sochi builders are installing concrete block walls without cement between the blocks. Such walls, as a picture suggests, could easily collapse (youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=iEnj3lBENQc).
Human Rights First Calls for US Delegation to ‘Stand for Equality’ at Sochi. HRF, a gay rights organization, says that it is not enough that some of the members of the US delegation to Sochi are openly gay or lesbian. All of them must speak out against Russia’s anti-LGBT law and it is gathering signatures on an online petition calling for that (actions.humanrightsfirst.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=9182).
ICG and HRW Say Enhanced Security at Sochi Could Lead Violence in North Caucasus. Russia’s security build up in Sochi could have the unintended consequence of leading to more violence in the North Caucasus even if it manages to keep the games themselves safe, according to experts at Human Rights Watch and the Interntional Crisis Group (sobkorr.ru/infopovod/52EF997B750C4.html).
Doping Scandal has Alreaady Handed Russia Its First Defeat at Sochi, TASS Analyst Says. Dmitry Kogan,who writes commentaries for ITAR-Tass, says that the finding that at least one Russian athlete had used illegal drugs represents “the first defeat of Russia” in the Olympiad (http://tass-analytics.com/opinions/1500).
Security Stepped Up in Moscow as Well for Sochi Games. Russian officials have stepped up security measures in the Russian capital in advance of the Sochi Olympics, apparently out of concern that terrorists might choose to target Moscow in order to get greater attention (izvestia.ru/news/564953).
Tatar Nationalist Charged for Urging a Boycott of Kazan Universiade Last Summer. In an action that highlights what may happen to Russian critics of the Sochi Games, officials have brought charges against Fauziya Bayramova, a leading Kazan Tatar nationalist, because she urged competitors to stay away from the Kazan Universiade (ng.ru/regions/2014-02-03/2_tatarstan.html).
‘Faster, Higher, Funnier’ Entrees Posted. Moscow’s “Novyye izvestiya” has posted online some of the entries of its fifth international cartoon contest which this time around is devoted to the Sochi Olympics. These are available at konkurs.newizv.ru/.
Russian Rail Completes only 1300 of Promised 3500 Rooms for Olympiad Personnel. Russia Rail, which has built many of the hotels and support facilities in Sochi, has completed only 1300 of the 3500 rooms it contracted to build for Olympiad personnel, Russian officials say, adding that the authorities are considering imposing one of a variety of penalties on the firm (blogsochi.ru/content/vlasti-mogut-nakazat-rzhd-za-sryv-srokov-stroitelstva-zhilya-dlya-personala-olimpiady).
Sochi Police Suggest BlogSochi Editor Leave Town During Olympiad. The Sochi police have suggested that Aleksandr Valov, editor of BlogSochi.ru, leave town during the competition. Valov’s site is viewed by 30-40,000 people each day, 70 percent of them locals, and is a major source for what has gone wrong in the preparations for the Olympics (blogsochi.ru/content/blogger-v-sochi-issleduet-obratnuyu-storonu-olimpiady-cbc-kanada).
Austrian Olympians Receive Anonymous Threats. Russian police are investigating anonymous threats received by two members of the Austrian Olympic team. Officials of the Austrian Olympic Committee say that the two are confident that they will be protected (bbc.co.uk/russian/rolling_news/2014/02/140204_rn_sochi_threats_austria.shtml).
Rumors Flying in Sochi that Residents are to Be Drafted to Clean Up Olympic Venues. PrivetSochi.ru has posted a letter from one reader who says he has heard from neighbors that the authorities plan to order local residents to help clean up not only their own areas – that has been reported and confirmed – but other parts of the city near the Olympic venues. The latter has not yet been confirmed (privetsochi.ru/blog/grazhdannskoe_obhestvo_goroda_sochi/41453.html ). But officials have indicated that they will use up to half of the pupils in Sochi schools to ensure crowds where they want them. The students have a break from school until the Games are over (blogsochi.ru/content/vneplanovye-kanikuly-v-shkolakh-goroda-sochi-nachnutsya-7-fevralya).
British Brewery Launches Special Beer to Protest Moscow’s Anti-Gay Laws. The independent BrewDog brewery is producing a special beer to protest Russia’s anti-LGBT propaganda law. Called “Hello My Name is Vladimir,” its label shows Putin wearing lipstick and eyeshadow and states that this is “not for gays” (buzzfeed.com/tomphillips/brewery-launches-anti-putin-beer-in-protest-over-gay-rights).
Only 10 Percent of Sochi Visitors Will Be from Outside of Russia. Russians will make up 90 percent of the fans at the Sochi Olympics, with the largest numbers coming from Krasnodar kray, in in which Sochi is located, and nearby Rostov Oblast, according to Russian experts (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237670/).
Despite Warm Temperatures, Sochi Will Have Plenty of Snow, Most Man-Made. Roman Vilfand, head of the Russian Hydrometeorological Service, says that temperatures during the Games will be mostly above freezing but that snow cannons and other techniques will ensure that there will be enough snow for the competitions (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237660/).
Dutch Petition King and Government Not to Go to Sochi. 35,000 Dutch citizens have called on their kind and prime minister not to attend the Sochi Olympiad in order to protest Russia’s anti- gay laws. Originally, Russian officials said that they expected as many as 60 chiefs of state and heads of government, but far fewer, perhaps less than a quarter of that number have said they are planning to attend (kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237652/ and kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/237654/).
Sign of the Times in Sochi: ‘I’ve Left. Back after the Games.’ Sochi News published a picture of a sign in one shop in the city which reflects the feelings of many small businesses there (sochinskie-novosti.com/2014/01/25/%D1%81%D0%BE%D1%87%0%B8-%D0%B2-%D0%BE%D0%B6%D0%B8%D0%B4%D0%B0%D0%BD%D0%B8%D0%B8-%D0%BF%D1%80%D0%B0%D0%B7%D0%B4%D0%BD%D0%B8%D0%BA%D0%B0/).
Kozak Says Everything Ready and Denies Large-Scale Corruption. In an interview with “Itogi,” Vice Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak reiterated his statements that Sochi is ready for the games and that there is as yet no confirmation of any large-scale corruption among Olympic contractors, although he added that he could not say there had not been some violations of the law (ria.ru/sochi2014_around_games/20140201/992556885.html#ixzz2s5Fc2Efo and http://www.itogi.ru/russia/2014/5/197650.html).
Russians Referring to Sochi Games as the ‘Kickbacktiada.’ Fed up with the high cost of the Sochi Olympics and reports of massive corruption there, many Russians are now referring to the Games as “Kickbacktiada,” a word that combines a word familiar to English speakers with an ending Russians often use for competitions (http://www.latimes.com/sports/olympics/la-sp-sochi-corruption-20140203,0,7720747.story#axzz2sIISwLF3). Some more Internet savvy Russians have come up with parodies and songs making fun of the Games (elitedaily.com/humor/russians-create-hilarious-rebuttal-music-video-russias-anti-gay-laws-video/).
Sochi MVD Leadership Replaced Just Before Games. In a development which some fear may affect security, Moscow replaced a number of senior officers in the local investigation department of the the interior ministry administration only ten days before competitors and fans began arriving (blogsochi.ru/content/massovoe-uvolnenie-v-sledstvennom-upravlenii-uvd-sochi-nakanune-olimpiady).
Two US Navy Ships on Station Off Sochi Coast. The USS Ramage and the USS Mount Whitney have taken up positions in the Black Sea near Sochi to provide support in the event an evacuation becomes necessary. Some Russians are angry but the ships have remained outside of Russian territorial waters (kp.ru/online/news/1648157/).
Sochi Cost More than All Previous Winter Games Combined. Jurryt van de Vooren, a Dutch analyst, says that the Sochi Games cost more than all previous Winter Games combined, a finding that is all the more striking because the figure he used for Sochi – 40 billion US dollars – is far lower than the estimates made by other independent investigators who place the total upwards from 51 billion (ampp3d.mirror.co.uk/2014/02/01/sochi-cost-more-than-every-other-winter-olympics-put-together/ and nrc.nl/nieuws/2014/02/01/sotsji-duurder-dan-alle-vorige-winterspelen-bij-elkaar/).
Saudis Reportedly Promised to Keep Caucasus Quiet During Games if Moscow Met its Demands. Russian analysts have picked up earlier British reports that Saudi Prince Bandar visited Moscow and promised that Riyadh could keep the North Caucasus quiet during the Olympiad if Moscow agreed to several unspecified demands, an exchange that has not been confirmed but one that implies, at least in the Russian telling, that the Saudis have enormous influence over the militants in the North Caucasus and thus can be blamed if anything goes wrong (fool.com/investing/general/2014/01/27/the-sochi-olympics-security-could-be-more-influenc.aspx and ru.journal-neo.org/2014/02/02/rus-olimpiada-bandar-bin-sultan-i-mezhdunarodny-j-terrorizm/).
Estonian Olympic Team Pictured with Huskies as Protest Against Killing of Homeless Animals in Sochi. Estonian Olympians posed with Huskies for their official photograph in order to protest reports that officials in Sochi have been killing rather than rounding up homeless dogs and cats (http://www.bk55.ru/mc2/news/article/1850 andsiapress.ru/news/society/29437).
Russian Olympic Winners Will Get Prizes from Both Moscow and Regions. Russian officials have announced that Russian Olympians who win medals will receive money prizes from both the central Russian government and the regions from which they are from (newizv.ru/sport/2014-01-31/196317-cena-zolota.html).
Half of Police in Sochi from Somewhere Else in Russia. Approximately half of the 30,000 policemen now in Sochi are from other regions of Russia, and at least some of them are unhappy with the facilities the authorities have provided them and as the behavior of a group from St. Petersburg shows very much want to go home
Russian Conservatives Upset by Plans to Have Tatu Perform at Games. Russian conservatives say they are very upset that Moscow has decided to have Tatu, whose members are openly lesbian, perform at the games. That may distract international attention from Russia’s anti-LGBT laws, but it is a concession the authorities should never have made (via-midgard.info/news/lesbiyanki-na-radost-izvrashhencam-mira-budut.htm).
Experts Say Terrorist Attack Most Likely Outside of Sochi and at End of Games. Western security experts say that the physical security now in place in Sochi means that any terrorist attack during the Olympics is more likely to take place outside the city. They also say that the most likely time for such an attack would be near the end of the Games because the closing ceremony coincides with the 70th anniversary of Stalin’s deportation of the Chechens and Ingush to Central Asia in 1944 (washingtonpost.com/opinions/during-the-olympics-the-greatest-terrorism-threats-are-outside-sochi/2014/01/31/cfa2f87a-8848-11e3-916e-e01534b1e132_story.html). Other experts say that the most likely form of any attack will be that of a suicide bombing (abcnews.go.com/Sports/wireStory/suicide-bombers-called-biggest-sochi-olympics-risk-22308875).
Wage Arrears of Sochi Workers Still Not Paid Up, HRW Says. Jane Buchanan, associate director of Human Rights Watch, says that Olympic contractors still have not paid their workers all that they have earned and that “the IOC needs to do more to make sure that games aren’t held the Olympics. The games can’t be a force for good if they come at such a high cost for people building the Olympics” (travelerstoday.com/articles/8498/20140131/sochi-olympics-2014-workers-security-billions-terrorism-wages.htm).
Australian Olympians told Not to Make Statements Until After Their Events. The Australian Olympic Committee has told its Olympians not tomake statements until after they have competed and appeared on the podium. “Inevitably, therewill be some form of demonstration on the field of play, but I hope there is nothing significanton the podium, and if they do they will be dealt with,” one Australian official said (theage.com.au/sport/winter-olympics/sochi-olympics-john-coates-has-warned-australian-athletes-on-political-protests-in-sochi-20140131-31sp0.html).
Organizer of Sochi Explosions in 2008-2009 Sentenced to Life in Prison. Underscoring just how tough Russian courts will be if anyone commits a terrorist act during the Olympiad, Ilya Galkin, a former Russian policeman, has just been sentenced to life behind bars for his role in the explosions that rocked Sochin in 2008 and 2009 (blogsochi.ru/content/rganizator-vzryvov-v-sochi-v-2008-2009-godakh-eks-militsioner-galkin-osuzhden-na-pozhiznenny).
Exchanging or Returning Tickets Could Create Problems. Those who have purchased tickets and want or have to exchange or return them must follow careful procedures, officials say, but the process could open the way for those without proper identification to get into venues, as could the day passes now being sold (privetsochi.ru/blog/sochi2014/41326.htmland
Sochi Volunteers Over-Doing Enforcement. Some Sochi residents are complaining that the volunteers working during the games are taking the rules too literally or are enforcing provisions in a more radical way than intended. If those who are victimized in this way can get to their superiors, they are likely to be treated more fairly. If not, they will have problems as did one woman who was initially deprived of all of her insulin by the firt-line volunteers (privetsochi.ru/blog/sochi2014/41240.html).
The Only Prescription in Sochi is ‘Don’t Get Sick.’ Residents say that shortcomings in the medical support system in their city mean that the only real prescription is “don’t get sick!” (privetsochi.ru/blog/med_sochi/41223.html).
Sochi Games ‘Cancelled,’ According to Satirical Article. A satirical article in the “Examiner” said that the Sochi Games were cancelled on February 8th “after Russian authorities arrested almost three-quarters of the athletes.” It continued “One of the first to be arrested was a Dutch speed skater whose iPod contained the greatest hits of the Village People. He is currently awaiting bail.The entire US hockey team was arrested en masse, because the Russian authorities deemed their jeans too tight. A clear sign of gayness, according to one unnamed source at the FSB. Every single competitor in the luge competition was arrested because the authorities deemed their outfits ‘too kinky’ … All members of the bobsled teams were arrested for what the Russian authorities deemed ‘inappropriate touching, and sitting too close.’ All male curling competitors were arrested. When reporters asked why, a Russian security official just snorted and said, “Men with brooms? Please…isn’t it obvious?” … And finally, the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian teams were all arrested and immediately shipped to Siberia. When asked what they had done wrong, one Russian official shrugged his shoulders, sighed and said, “Nothing, old habits die hard” (examiner.com/article/winter-olympics-cancelled).