Question: Which city is closer to Sochi, host of the 2014 Olympic games: the Russian capital of Moscow or the Chechen capital of Grozny?
Answer: Grozny is 299.85 miles from Sochi, an easy walk through mountains they know only too well, for the Chechen rebels, while Moscow is 844.25 miles from Sochi. Russia couldn't protect the Dubrovka theater which is actually in Moscow from the Chechens (it also claims it couldn't protect two Moscow apartment buildings from them). Will it be able to protect remote Sochi, right in the the Chechen's back yard? Notice, too, Sochi's proximity to the Georgian border; Sochi is only barely in Russian territory. Even closer than Grozny is the disputed Kodori Gorge area, including Ingushetia, where Russia has already launched attacks on Georgian territory that are under UN investigation, and where Russia regularly faces terrorist outbreaks which could erupt into a shooting war at any time.
Question: Who will get to Sochi first for the Olympics, Chechen terrorists or Vladimir Putin?
Answer: Well, we'll just have to wait and see, won't we. Seems like the IOC is willing to gamble many people's lives on the answer. That doesn't seem quite consistent with the Olympic spirit. Perhaps they've forgotten Munich already . . .
Writing in the Moscow Times Igor Nikolayev, director of the strategic analysis department for the auditing consultancy FBK, has this to say about Sochi's financing:
The federal program for the development of Sochi's resorts from 2006 to 2014 was a strong factor in the city getting the XXII Winter Olympic Games. The government earmarked $12.2 billion for the Sochi Games. This is clearly a colossal amount of money and compares impressively to the spending of other countries. The total cost of the 2006 Games in Turin was 3.4 billion euros ($4.6 billion). Perhaps China's example was contagious for Russia: Beijing wanted the 2008 Summer Games so badly that it was willing to invest $33 billion to win the contest. While the development plan definitely leaves you with a positive impression, it is easy to get the feeling that some of the cost estimates were not well thought out.
- The cost to construct the start and finish areas, the stands for spectators and journalists, and the snowmaking equipment for the downhill skiing center has been listed at 468,264,000 rubles ($18.2 million). It's as if a calculator came up with the number on its own.
- The construction of a large hockey arena to seat 12,000 is budgeted at $220 million -- all of it federal money. The price tag for another arena for figure skating, which should hold 12,000 people, interestingly enough is just $55 million. Thus, the cost of building one arena is four times the cost of building another arena of the very same size.
- Another example is an 8,000-seat, closed speed skating center that is projected to cost $42 million. Moscow's Krylatskoye speed skating complex, which holds 10,000, cost exactly twice that amount -- $84 million.
There is more than enough nonsense like this in the development plan to allow us to go on for a while, but the government has approved it all. This is a problem not only for the federal planners in Moscow but for Sochi itself. The government made the $12 billion price tag that it was willing to pay for the Games the main argument in its favor. But the least they could have done was take a serious approach to putting together the details of the development and funding program.So Russia is already planning to spend nearly three times more than Turin, Italy spent to host the last winter games, and apparently its cost figures constitute a wildly low estimate.
In doing so, Russia will fill a region that is already patronized by Russia's rich and famous with investment, while the rest of the country languishes in poverty.
And then there's the little problem of the Chechen rebels which, as one can see from the following post, is not quite solved . . .