Friday, March 22, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Sochi Countdown -- 46 Weeks to the Olympiad in the North Caucasus

Note:  This is my sixth 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  Allow me to express my thanks to all those who already have. Paul Goble

Russian Attacks on Circassian Demands Attract Attention to Them. Speaking at a Rostov conference last week, Andrey Areshov said that the Circassian community is far from united behind those who seek recognition of the events of 1864 a genocide and oppose the Olympics being held on the site of those events. Such demands are not only “unrealistic” but in reality are nothing more than the latest “anti-Russian propaganda campaign. But from the point of view of the Circassians, such attacks call attention to the issues they have raised and highlight the extent of Moscow’s concerns about their impact (

Officials Plan to Refrigerate 450,000 Cubic Meters of Snow for Winter Games. Because they cannot count on enough snow for a winter games in this subtropical region (, Sochi Olympic officials have announced plan to put some 450,000 cubic meters of snow in refrigerators to ensure there will be enough (  But even that may not be enough if the weather is as warm next year as this (, and some people are talking about moving some competitions further away from Sochi (

Russians with Large Families Call for Boycott of Sochi Games.  After a family with three children lost its housing in a garage in Sochi because of rising rents, its members and other large families called for boycotting the Sochi Olympiad because, they say, there is no other way for force the Kremlin to enforce the law and its promises to growing families (

Putin Friend Given Sochi Contracts Worth More than Cost of 2010 Vancouver Games.  Arkady Rotenberg, a childhood friend of the Russian president has been given 7.4 billion US dollars in contracts for the Sochi Games, an amount that exceeds the budget of the Vancouver competition but “represents just 15 percent of Russia’s latest estimate” for Sochi, Business Week says (

Sochi Officials Keep the Public In Dark about Public Hearings. Despite Russian laws requiring notice of public hearings, Sochi officials and Olympic enterprises are not doing so but rather organizing sessions with only their supporters present and then declaring they have public backing for whatever they want to do (

Russian Courts Allow Olympic Construction to Violate Safety and Environmental Laws. Courts in Sochi have turned aside obections by Sochi residents about building standards and allowed the companies involved to ignore existing laws, apparently out of a desire to speed up construction ( and

Housing Promised for Volunteers, Security Workers Not Yet Built. Volunteers and security officers who are already arriving in Sochi are discovering that the apartments they were promised has not been put up. As a result, both they and those who arrive in the coming months are being forced to find alternative housing on their own (

Rebuilding One Sochi Park May Lead to Its Destruction.  Sochi residents are worried that the promises Olympic builders have made to restore one popular city park may have the effect of leading to its complete destruction, thus leaving them without a place for recreation (

Sochi Residents Have to Pay for Trash Pickup at Olympic Construction Sites. Sochi residents are angry that they have to pay for trash pickups at Olympic sites even as they face ever more problems with that and other city services ( Indeed, in many parts of the city, communal services have become so unreliable that in recent months, residents have filed hundreds of complaints about this and about related corruption ( and

Sochi Now Features ‘an Architecture of the Absurd.’ Because of a total lack of planning, each of the enterprises involved in preparing for the Sochi games is putting up buildings of its own design. Many do not fit together and that has created what local residents are calling “an architecture of the absurd.”  Moreover, because so much of the construction is so far from complete, they point to the shoddy workmanship in many of them. Indeed, the situation has become so bad that many of them are asking if “the powers that be have no shame” (  and

Putin and Medvedev at Sochi Cartoons Go Viral.  A series of cartoon drawings showing Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev relaxing at what are clearly summer rather than winter games in Sochi has gone viral on the Russian Internet (

Vladikavkaz Flashmob Protests IOC Decision to Drop Boxing.  On March 21, a flashmob in the North Osetian capital assembled to protest the decision of the International Olympic Committee to drop boxing as an Olympic sport, the latest of a series of demonstrations on this issue in the region ( and

Funds for Sochi Construction Diverted to Offshore Accounts, Activist Says. Suren Gazaryan, an environmental activist in the North Caucasus who has been forced to seek political asylum in Estonia, provides a detailed description of the way Russian taxpayer money intended for the construction of Olympic sites has ended up in the offshore accounts of Russian officials and businessmen (

Corruption Keeping Russia from Doing Well at Olympics.  Russian teams are doing less well at international competitions like the Olympics because corruption often means that Moscow is not fielding the best competitors but rather those with the best connections to the power elite ( And other observers suggest that this means that in Sochi, Russian competitors will not get the home field advantage that other host countries have in the past (

Moscow Pressures Geographic Society Branch in Sochi to End Complaints about Olympics. The national Russian Geographic Society is putting pressure on its Sochi branch, including threatening to take away its office there, because members of the latter have been among the most active in asserting that geographically and climatically, Sochi is the wrong place for a winter games (

‘The Sochi the IOC Wasn’t Shown.’ has launched a cycle of photographic reports about the devastation in that southern city that Moscow officials, in the best traditions of a Potemkin village, did not allow members of the International Olympic Committee to see (

Russian Athletes Living in US Launch Pro-Sochi Campaign. Saying that “sports for us is not political, Tatayana Pozdnaykova, a past Olympic gold medalist, has joined other top Russian athletes now living in the United States to promote the Sochi games and “help warm US-Russian relationsin the process" (

Heavy Rains Force Officials to Put 28 Sochi Rivers under Emergency Control. Heavy rains common in Sochi at this time of year have led 28 Sochi rivers to overflow their banks and forced Russian officials to evacuate residents and stop construction, the latest of what one Russian writer calls “a long line of natural and technogenic catastrophes” there (

MVD Announces Arrest of Man Suspected of Blowing Up Construction Sites in Sochi.  Officials the Center for Countering Extremism of the Krasnodar branch of the Russian Interior Ministry have announced the arrest, jointly with the FSB (

FSB, MVD, Local Resorts Squabble on Security Issues.  Each of these organizations has its own ideas about how security should be arranged for the Sochi games, and their disputes are now breaking out into the media locally and in Moscow (

US Offers to Help Moscow with Sochi Security. Admiral James Stavridis, commander of US forces in Europe, said that Washington is ready to discuss providing security for the upcoming Winter Games in Sochi as part of its general effort to promote security cooperation with Russia (

FSB Doesn’t Want Israeli or French Security Assistance at Sochi. Concerned that any foreign involvement in security matters in Sochi could allow foreign powers to engage in espionage, the FSB has made it clear that it does not want to see either Israeli or French firms involved in projects there (

Putin Will Ensure Order at Sochi, Russians Told. Given what Vladimir Putin has done in Chechnya, Russians can “be certain” that the Russian president will “impose order and security” for the Sochi games, according to one Moscow writer (

Where are the Circassian Flags at Sochi? Some Circassian activists are asking why there are no flags at Sochi competitions, an indication that at least some members of that nation believe that they will be able to attract attention to their cause even if they are not successful in having the IOC move the games away from the site where in 1864 many of their ancestors were killed (

Syrian Civil War Destabilizing Region around Sochi.  The ongoing fighting in Syria may have a direct impact on the Sochi games because many Circassians are fleeing that country and seeking to return to their native lands in the northwestern Caucasus, putting Moscow in a difficult situation and creating new challenges for the regional and republic governments there (

Sochi’s Leaning Tower May Soon Tilt More than Pisa’s.  What residents and visitors to Sochi are calling that city’s leaning tower is tilting more than ever because officials have not yet figured out how to shore up its foundations and save it from collapse (

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