All That Glitters is Not Gold: The Corruption that Plagued the Sochi Winter Games

By Aarathi Sahadevan

Since 2007 when Sochi was selected to host the 2014 Winter Olympics, it has been treated with the usual Olympic package, setting up for its debut with grandiose buildings, state of the art facilities and other lavish preparations. But as its time approached, instead of witnessing the excitement and beauty in one of Russia’s most popular vacation spots, the world instead saw a much uglier side of the situation. With news of terrorist scares, the extermination of stray dogs, and unfinished hotel rooms flooding media outlets around the world, it was clear that the Winter Olympics would not be Russia’s finest hour (more mishaps here). According to CNN, this Olympics is the most expensive ever held, racking up a tab of $50 billion dollars, costing more than all other winter Olympics combined. This hefty price included the strengthening of Sochi’s infrastructure, the construction of Olympic facilities, upholding of the games and undoubtedly, and a little extra for Putin and friends. USA Today estimates that at least 1/3rd of the budget or $17 billion was lost to corruption. In a report by anti-corruption candidate Alexei Navalny, President Putin and numerous private corporations have taken advantage of national construction loans for personal benefit. In one case, Fisht Stadium, the destination for both the opening and closing ceremonies, had its costs raised 14 times, with each individual spectator seat “costing” $13,300, the majority of this money going towards the pockets of corrupt individuals. Putin has dismissed these claims, stating the Olympics only cost $6.5 billion in total, and that neither him nor any of the contractors hired for the games were involved in siphoning money. Although the games themselves were successful with a great array of talented athletes, that can’t change the fact that unfair play has tainted a global symbol of sportsmanship and collaboration.