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Sochi cannot afford high-roller attitude

Sochi cannot afford high-roller attitude (credit: Eunice Oh/) Sochi cannot afford high-roller attitude (credit: Eunice Oh/)
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The Olympics are meant to be a time during which the world puts its differences aside and comes together in a joyous manner to celebrate healthy competition. However, as the final whispers of this year’s Sochi Olympics die down, many questions are being raised concerning the corruption associated with history’s most expensive Games.

According to The Huffington Post, this year’s Winter Games have cost upward of $50 billion — a cost higher than that of all previous Winter Olympics combined. For a country with significant economic problems and government expenditures of only $376.2 billion in 2011, this vast spending is concerning.

With this high-roller attitude, Russia is trying to impress the world and hide the fact that it is still a developing nation. It has tried to hide its issues with shiny, state-of-the-art complexes, but members of the media are quickly discovering many of the problems faced by Sochi’s citizens that Russia has been unable to cover.

As The Huffington Post describes, many journalists entered their hotels only to find half-finished buildings. In some hotels, the water was a bright yellow hue and clearly unsafe to drink. Journalist for Canadian publication The Globe and Mail Mark MacKinnon even tweeted, “Ok, so my hotel doesn’t have a lobby yet.” Though many rooms did not contain heat, Internet, or other basic commodities, each did offer an authoritarian portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Sochi bid its spot for the Olympics quoting an estimated budget of $12 billion. How has its budget more than quadrupled since to $51 billion?

As it turns out, the most expensive games in Olympics history may also be the most corrupt. According to Business Insider, as much as $30 billion may have been stolen from the “already inflated budget.”

According to Russian opposition figures Boris Nemtsov and Leonid Martynyuk, Putin funneled contracts to many of his friends, causing the Olympics’ sports complexes to be built without competitive offers. Nemtsov describes this embezzlement as “a real threat to Russia’s national security.”

The fact that half of the budget may have been stolen represents much of the corruption the Russian government still faces in the post-Soviet era. Add to this the anti-gay propaganda laws enacted by Russia before the games, and the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics has turned out to be one of the most controversial games in history.

Despite the controversy, the fact that Russia held this year’s games may encourage closer ties with the United States and other Western nations — a welcome accomplishment in this post-Cold War age. However, while Russia has come far from its Soviet Union decline, it stills faces many of the issues of a developing nation.

Russia’s international affairs may have benefited greatly from the Olympics, but by spending extravagant amounts of money on sports complexes when its citizens are in poverty, the nation has turned away from helping the people within its borders.