10 secrets of the 2014 Sochi Olympics «
1. “This may not be a banner Olympic year.”
When Russia was awarded the 2014 Winter Olympics, it was seen as a significant opportunity for the country — and in particular its president, Vladimir Putin — to show that this nation of 143 million was ready to take its place on the contemporary global stage. But in the months leading up to the Sochi Games, which are slated to run Feb. 6 to 23 (with the opening ceremony on Feb. 7), the country has been embroiled in all sorts of controversy, leading critics to question whether this will be a successful Olympics.
Begin with the recent antigay legislation passed in Russia, which has sparked international calls for a boycott of the Games. Add in the threat of terrorism, as evidenced by recent attacks in Volgograd, which left more than 30 dead.
Finally, there’s the skyrocketing cost of the Games: The tab for the Winter Olympics is expected to top $50 billion ; by contrast, the much larger 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing ran $40 billion. The price tag is an issue, Olympics experts say, because public money is involved, and more spending means a greater likelihood of future indebtedness.
Add it up and some say Sochi is, at best, a political hot potato and a troubled exercise in excess. And at worst? It could be a dangerous place to visit. Given the domestic unrest in Russia, “there is a definite vulnerability and a definite terror threat that is higher than in most Olympics,” says J.D. Jack, a security expert and vice president of KoolSpan, a mobile security firm. Still, the International Olympic Committee, the global body that oversees the Games, has stood by the choice of Sochi. “We have great expectations,” says IOC spokesman Mark Adams. “The organizers have built amazing venues and we look forward to witnessing great performances from the athletes.” As for Putin, he’s vowed to keep the Olympics safe, saying in his New Year’s message to the Russian people that he will “destroy the terrorists completely.”