The world’s eyes will be on Sochi, Russia today as the opening ceremony of the 22nd Winter Olympics gets underway. At an estimated cost of US$51 billion, the games should be a sight to behold. But what about alleged corruption and terror threats?
The extravagant preparations have bagged multiple headlines due to the record-breaking budget, however, reports of alleged state corruption, terrorist threats and poor working conditions have caused controversy.
Sochi was selected to host the games in 2007, and at that time they estimated the cost to be US$12 billion – an amount that smashed that of many fellow bidders. Yet somehow that amount has quadruped, and then some.
Corruption claims run far and wide. The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation looked into possible corruption in June 2012, stating that contractors had submitted grossly inflated project estimates. Putin has denied all allegations.
Though head of the games, Dmitry Chernyshenko, has promised Sochi will be “the safest place on earth during the Olympics,” and drafted in 37,000 police and armed officers, others seem skeptical. An official warning was issued by the United States on Wednesday concerning the possibility of explosives being concealed in toothpaste and highlighting the need for extra-stringent security checks. It’s also alleged that two Austrian athletes have been threatened, though specific details haven’t been released.
Media in Sochi have claimed Russia isn’t prepared for the event. Many have said that they were showed into unfinished rooms, or buildings that were still being constructed. These claims have called into question the readiness of other buildings and roads.
One official told reporters: “There are some elements working from a subtext that something is wrong, something is bad, there’s a reason for this, there’s a cunning plan.”
Vladimir Putin simply said: “Russia is ready for the games.” We guess we won’t need to wait long to find out.