Guest Post: Russia’s Potemkin Olympic Village

Tyler Durden's picture

With reporters stunned by Sochi's unreadiness and athletes now quitting individual events on the lack of preparedness of the snow, the Winter Olympics in Russia is off to a less than stellar start. The last time Russia hosted the Olympics – the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow - the Soviet Union was a superpower, stagnant but stable. Not so today, notes Nina Khruschcheva; Putin’s Russia is weak, tawdry, and corrupt – and underserving as an Olympic host. The atmosphere surrounding the Sochi Games reflects many of Russia’s worst traits. In the immortal words of former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, describing the country’s economic transition of the 1990’s: “We hoped for the best, but things turned out as usual.”


Authored by Nina Khruscheva, originally posted at Project Syndicate,

Remember the year 2007? Russia was starting to look like a world power again. Its economy was growing at a record 8.5% annual rate. Political life had stabilized. Support for President Vladimir Putin was stratospheric. The decade-long Chechen rebellion seemed to have been suppressed. And, to top it off, the International Olympic Committee awarded the 2014 Winter Games to Russia’s Black Sea resort, Sochi.

In many respects, it was a strange choice of venue: sunny Sochi has beautiful mountains but little or no snow. It is also 850 miles south of Moscow, with few direct flights from Europe, while the trip from the United States can involve up to four legs.

But in 2007, Russians were becoming more optimistic about their future. Addressing the Olympic Committee, Putin argued that awarding Russia the Games would not only allow it to showcase its post-Soviet achievements; it would also help the country through its political and economic transition. Nothing seemed too difficult for Putin, even mouthing unnecessary democratic platitudes for an Olympic committee whose members had already awarded the 2008 Summer Olympics to Beijing.

But, once construction got underway, the realities of modern Russia could not be so easily hidden. The colossal project, which cost more than $50 billion – more than all previous Winter Olympics combined – was expected to turn Sochi into a sporting paradise, packed with arenas and a new airport. Instead, corruption and construction accidents have plagued preparations, with hotels still unfinished just days before the opening ceremony.

Delay and waste are common in Olympic preparations (Greece in 2004 is an obvious example, and Brazil in 2016 appears to be experiencing similar problems). But Russia is proving to be an unsuitable host for other reasons.

For starters, there are concerns about Putin’s own political legitimacy. His controversial and unconstitutional re-election to a third presidential term was condemned internationally and triggered anti-government protests across Russia.

Putin responded to those he considers political enemies by arresting and jailing protesters, including the all-girl rock band Pussy Riot, following “show trials” (with the Olympics approaching, there have been recent “show pardons”). Such episodes have contributed to a general air of intolerance across Russia, fueled in no small part by Kremlin-incited chauvinism. A government sponsored anti-gay propaganda law, which indiscriminately criminalizes same-sex couples, has caused outrage abroad. Local activists have even advised gay athletes not to display signs of their sexual orientation while in Russia.

Similarly, though the Olympics should be an occasion for national pride, foreign – and in particular American – athletes have been told to avoid showing their team colors when outside the grounds. In fact, they have been warned not to wander beyond Sochi’s “ring of steel” security perimeter and the watchful gaze of black-and-gray-clad police officers, even though Olympians typically like to explore local sights.

None of this engenders a sense of Olympic solidarity and international friendship. And it gets worse. The authorities must also contend with threats from Islamist insurgents from Chechnya, who are now operating in other North Caucasian republics, a mere 200 miles from Sochi. The “black widows” – wives of Islamist fighters killed in the Kremlin’s “pacification” campaign – are believed to be preparing retaliatory suicide missions at airports, train stations, and on buses.

The last time Russia hosted the Olympics – the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow – the US and its allies staged a boycott in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. And yet the Soviet Union was a superpower, stagnant but stable. Its totalitarian secrecy, gargantuan military-industrial complex, ever-present KGB handlers, and apparent disdain for material comforts (at least for ordinary Russians) gave the Communist hegemon a perverse mystique that made even a simple visit to Red Square a trip to remember. However much the country was hated or feared, one could not deny that is was a major player on the world stage.

Not so today. Putin’s Russia is weak, tawdry, and corrupt – and underserving as an Olympic host. The atmosphere surrounding the Sochi Games reflects many of Russia’s worst traits. In the immortal words of former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, describing the country’s economic transition of the 1990’s: “We hoped for the best, but things turned out as usual.”

Even assuming that the Sochi Games pass off successfully, and that, despite the security restrictions and official bigotry, athletes and visitors enjoy their stay, will Russia’s brief display of national pride really be worth the financial and political cost? Or will Russians wake up six months from now and say, “Yes, our country has a fancy ski resort – at the beach.”

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Randoom Thought's picture

Brazil summer games will be worse.

falak pema's picture

they have the Corcovado! What god wills will be! 

HyBrasilian's picture

I thought the POTEMKIN VILLAGE IDIOT lived at 1600 Pennsylvania

Boris Alatovkrap's picture

Potemkin Village People is live in San Francisco, no?

ParkAveFlasher's picture

This just in, Putin challenges entire IOC to a sambo cage match on a floating platform in the Aral Sea. To be televised on RT after the Max Keiser Report.

fonestar's picture

Tyler, throw me a Bitcoin article!  I'm freaking dying up here man!!

Motorhead's picture

Hey, it's only been about 10 minutes since that wanker Jim Sinclair or King World News had an article about gold...check 'em out!  (LOL)

fonestar's picture

Hey thanks, fonestar used to get his doom fix from KWN but since he moved onto the harder bitshit it's just not working anymore.

akak's picture

You're a virtual legend, Fonestar.

SWRichmond's picture

political legitimacy what the f*** is that?  as if f****** Obama had any political legitimacy?  I'm not defending Putin but holy f****** s***.


Corrupt?   Russia is corrupt? Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.  I'm already sick of the Western media anti-Russia crap.  what they really want to do is make it okay for us to go to war and I really don't want to do that.

TheFourthStooge-ing's picture

This is what I'd expect to see if I read the Huff'n'Post or msm-news.con. Just another anti-Putin smear job. He must have really pissed off some people when he prevented Obama's Syrian invasion. John Kerry and "Prince" Bandar probably still feel their asses stinging.

DaveyJones's picture

don't know if anyone posted this and I missed

BUT have you seen TIME'S Winter Olympic cover? and the imagery? and the headline in the actual article?

which country owns PRAVDA?  

has any other Time Olympic cover (and article) gone to such political lengths?

This Snowden thing has really ticked somone off 

akak's picture

TIME still exists?

What is it down to, about 12 pages (of mostly photographs) per issue now?

BandGap's picture


You only lend credence to those who think you're schitzophrenic.

fonestar's picture

fonestar is managed by a PAL.

garypaul's picture


TheMeatTrapper's picture

Funny how RT or Max hasn't had a word to say on this mess. They know which side their bread is buttered on. All the media are whore - the only question is which side they are working for. 

ParkAveFlasher's picture

I have nothing against Max K.  You always have to hear perspectives.  I'm just trying to imagine the progression here, and in my mind, Putin shoving the wads of IOC cash down his pants and gesturing that they come and take it back is feasible.

superflex's picture

Nikita Khrushchev is Nina Khrushcheva's biological great-grandfather.

She seems to like Mayor DeBlassio.

I smell a rat.

Steaming_Wookie_Doo's picture

Yeah. The anti-Russian rhetoric has ramped up to epic levels. A plethora of articles to point out every problem and "look how bad it is over there". I could care less about Olympics really, and if anyone thinks it's unsafe (or you just don't like the host country), don't go or boycott. 

Really I think there's a western cohort that is completely terrified of Putin and will make every attempt to oust him. Raping Russia once was not enough for the Larry Summers crowd, gotta try and do it again.

HardAssets's picture

The Measure of National Intelligence:


NOT hosting the Olympics

NOT spending your citizens money & resources on a short term circus.


HyBrasilian's picture



Only the policeman & the construction worker... The Indian moved back to the reservation & the soldier now works in the OW BUM A administration as a 'joint' chief...

TahoeBilly2012's picture

Hey there is no snow in Tahoe this year and the Alps aint much better. This article is jive. Russia has much less national debt and a ton of oil. This lady is a Zionist plant. Ignore her.

nonclaim's picture

Ignoring won't make this very expensive Potemkin go away. Won't make the region less violent either. Or make the choice of location any better...

[but sure, you are still free to get lost in rhetorics]

Chuck Walla's picture

Mandy Potemkin Village?



texas sandman's picture

Hey, Moochelle!  Potemkin Village called, they want their idiot back.  He out on the golf course?

Levadiakos's picture

Hey! Ease up! Obama created 4 new jobs today. Sasha and Melia have to make their beds and fold their clothes.

HyBrasilian's picture

Well ~ to accomplish that, he probably had to send 10 illegal aliens packing & ADDED $10 billion 'allowance' money to the national debt...


Your share is due in APRIL

Skateboarder's picture

Anything can be made to look great on TeeVee.

Boris Alatovkrap's picture

Yes, Boris is put photo of family member on Television next to antenna and is look much much better.

Levadiakos's picture

Boris must sleep with no pillow. Putin camandeer all pillow for ahtlete hotel. 

Boris Alatovkrap's picture

In America, you are sleep with head on pillow... In USSR, pillow is...

Never you are mind, analogy is beyond limit of elasticity.

johnQpublic's picture are put to sleep with pillow on face(?)

Boris Alatovkrap's picture

No, no, that is gram-ma-ma of a frick'n American president elect.

nonclaim's picture

That sweet lady had too many memories...

Boris Alatovkrap's picture

USSA is not fear, Potemkin village is come to your town too!

kralizec's picture

Is only real growth industry, no?

Bunga Bunga's picture

It's allready there. Just take a look at the lipstick flip house inventory.

Boris Alatovkrap's picture

You are make reference of International Houses of Pancake?

DaveyJones's picture

i thought that was a 911 collapse theory

Boris Alatovkrap's picture

That is remind Boris of joke...

In Russia, when gay man is sick in hospital, is diet of pizza and pancake ("hotcake" in English?). New intern in hospital is ask "why is special diet?" Dietary attendant is answer, "is only thing slide under door." Badumpda!

CrashisOptimistic's picture

This article reads like left wing extremist propaganda.

Russia pumps 10.7 million bpd of the good stuff.  Nothing else matters.

kralizec's picture

Besides, vodka can make any town a great town.


ThirdWorldDude's picture


"Nina L. Khrushcheva is a professor in the Graduate Program of International Affairs at the New School in New York, and a senior fellow at the World Policy Institute, where she directs the Russia Project. She previously taught at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, and is the author of Imagining Nabokov: Russia Between Art and Politics and the forthcoming book The Lost Khrushchev: A Journey into the Gulag of the Russian Mind."


Sounds credible to me...   /s

CrashisOptimistic's picture

Good research dood.

Nothing in this world is quite so useless and dangerous as academics with an agenda.


My heart will soar with joy when their pensions get cut.