LIVE BLOG: Here's The Sochi Olympics That Putin Doesn't Want You To See

Sochi putinREUTERS/Phil NobleInternational Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach of Germany and Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) stand together during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, February 7, 2014.

The Interpreteris a daily-updated online journal from The Institute of Modern Russia dedicated primarily to translating media from the Russian press and blogosphere into English. The site is running a live blog for the Sochi Olympics and have given us permission to republish it.

Welcome to The Interpreter’s Sochi Olympics Liveblog, day three. Click here to see yesterday’s Sochi Liveblog: The First Events Start, But is Sochi Really Ready?

17:31 GMT(12:33 EST): AFP is reporting a hijack attempt on a flight from Ukraine to Turkey:

An airliner with 110 passengers on board en route from Ukraine was forced Friday by an F-16 military jet to land in Istanbul after a hijack attempt, media reports said. A Ukrainian passenger is believed to have demanded that the plane be diverted to Sochi, where the Winter Olympics are taking place, and said there was a bomb on board, the unconfirmed reports said.

17:03 GMT (12:04 EST): A Canadian Olympian, Justin Kripps, has a brand new website — which he can’t see, because it is blocked in Russia.

“Looks like my website is censored in Russia,” he wrote on Twitter on Friday. “Haha classic #SochiProblems I wonder if there’s a camera in my room.” The Vancouver-based web developer behind Mr. Kripps’s personal site is investigating why it has been blacklisted, but said suspicion has been raised that the move may be linked to a photo Mr. Kripps tweeted last month of his burly four-man bobsled team in their underwear at a weigh-in. The photo went viral, including in the gay community.

The joke about a camera in his room is a reference to yesterday’s strangest news story. Journalists spent much of Wednesday complaining about the horrible conditions of their hotel rooms. A Russian Olympic official responded by saying that journalists had sabotaged the rooms themselves. How did the official know? They have cameras in the showers:

Dmitry Kozak, the deputy prime minister responsible for the Olympic preparations, reflected the view held among many Russian officials that some Western visitors are deliberately trying to sabotage Sochi’s big debut out of bias against Russia. “We have surveillance video from the hotels that shows people turn on the shower, direct the nozzle at the wall and then leave the room for the whole day,” he said. An aide then pulled a reporter away before Mr. Kozak could be questioned further on surveillance in hotel rooms. “We’re doing a tour of the media center,” the aide said.

16:48 GMT (11:54 EST): Yet another sign that Russia is going to have a hard time recouping $US50 billion of Russian taxpayer money— the attendance at the games is shockingly low. This was taken just before the start of the opening ceremony:

But the seats never filled up:

16:30 GMT (11:30 EST): Several activists have been arrested today, and several more have been stopped from boarding flights to Russia. The group “Human Rights in Russia” (HRO) reports:

Dmitry Berdnikov, leader of the civil society movement ‘Against crime and lawlessness’ was detained this morning at Kazan airport while going through passport controls. ‘I was about to fly to the Olympics in Sochi, said Berdnikov in a call to the Kazan bureau of the Novaya gazeta newspaper. I have tickets to the games. I had already checked in my luggage and went through registration, but when I was boarding the plane I was stopped by police officials. They told me that one of the pages of my passport was damaged. Now I am at a police station. The plane has already taken off’.

There are other reports of arrests in other cities, such as Moscow:

This relates to our previous update below:


16:18 GMT (11:18 EST): Four protesters have been arrested in St. Petersburg for simply carrying a banner that said “Discrimination is incompatible with the Olympic Movement,” a quote from Principle 6 of the Olympic charter. Buzzfeed quotes other activistsas suggesting that Russian police must be monitoring central areas of major cities to break up protests as soon as they begin to emerge:

“Either the phones are being listened to or maybe there are cameras all over the city; only a few people knew about this action,” said the activist, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear for her safety.

16:02 GMT (11:02 EST): Did a Russian snowboarder take to the slopestyle on a snowboard painted to resemble Pussy Riot? Alexey Sobolev’s snowboard has many images on it, including the picture of a woman, wearing a balaclava, a ski mask that Pussy Riot members wear while performing, and holding a knife.

La sp sn pussy riot homage alexey sobolev 2014 001Sergey Ilnitsky / EPAAlexey Sobolov’s snowboard may have a Pussy Riot member on it

Sobolev gave vague answers to questions about the board:

The Russian news agency R-Sport earlier asked Sobolev if the design was an “homage” to the band. “Anything is possible,” Sobolev told R-Sport, also telling the reporter that he was not the designer of the board.

15:38 GMT (10:38 EST): The Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion is having plenty of fun criticising Russia’s policies towards homosexuals. They have released this little video where they point out that the Olympics have always been “a little gay.”

15:18 GMT (10:18 EST): A quick look at the Russian-language Twittersphere reveals some interesting criticism of the Sochi games. Mikhail Delyagin, director of the Problems issued by Globalization Institute, and a former politician, commented on the corruption and crassness of the Sochi Games at a press conference in Moscow on Wednesday, reported here. While stating that the security risks from terrorism were, although genuine, were a “forgiveable” risk given the threats posed by terrorists in general, he said:

“But we will not forgive everyday rudeness and the attitude towards people as if they are wallets on legs, when they take money out of their pockets while providing no services in return. This is the main reason why Russians didn’t want to holiday in Sochi… A lot has been done, the city has been made habitable, but there is no certainty that it this is enough for the Olympics… There is also a sporting risk. We have already seen a doping scandal (involving the biathletes Irina Starykh and Yekaterina Yureva).”

Meanwhile, the indispensable Leonid Ragozin, a former BBC and Russian Newsweek reporter, makes a blunt observation:

Also, if you go to today, you’ll find a rainbow coloured Olympic theme, perhaps a subliminal dig at Russia’s homophobic laws and culture:

Google sochi logo

Well, Ragozin has Tweeted a remix of that image, originally made by Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny:

Ragozin Google spoof

15:00 GMT (10:00 EST): A Russian trade war has played a part in pushing Ukraine’s President to reject his country’s bid for membership in the European Union. That decision has led Ukraine to the brink, with protests, and riots, grinding Ukraine to a halt. We’ll see what kind of reception he gets in Sochi:

“Viktor Yanukovych has arrived in Sochi to boost the morale of Ukrainian athletes”

14:50 GMT (9:50 EST): In the oddest development so far today, Olympic organisers have announced that tATu, the Russian pop group famous for their (faux) lesbian antics, will be part of the opening ceremony. Russian state-owned Ria NOVOSTI reports:

Commenting on their appearance at show, its creative director Konstantin Ernst said the duo’s role would be a bit-part at best. “tATu are performing at the pre-show, where various popular artists will be on show,” Ernst said. ” tATu is one of the few groups that is world famous, although most of the ceremony is built upon classical and symphonic music,” he said.

If readers are unfamiliar with the group, they made international controversy in 2002 when they released their video for “All the Things She Said,” in which the two, both under the age of 18, kissed and embraced in the rain:

14:30 GMT (9:30 EST): The @inter Olympics opening ceremony is just a few hours away, but the central controversy — Russia’s homophobic policies and laws — have once again taken central stage. UN Secretary Ban Ki Moon is attending the games, dressed in a multicolored tracksuit and carrying the Olympic torch.

APInternational Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach hands over the Olympic torch to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as the torch relay arrives in Sochi on Thursday for the Winter Olympics.

But when Moon addressed the International Olympic Committee, his words were less festive. Likely a reference to Russia’s laws against “gay propaganda,” Moon condemned homophobiaand said that hatred “had no place in the 21st century.”

“We must all raise our voices against attacks on lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender or intersex people. We must oppose the arrests, imprisonment and discriminatory restrictions they face,” he said.

A Russian official, Dmitry Chernyshenko, President of the Sochi Olympic Organising Committee, responded by saying that nothing would happen to those who spoke out to gay rights, but he reiterated that sports, not politics, should be the focus:

“I mean that during the sporting competitions, the Olympic games, the Olympic charter is in effect, and its rules prohibit all kinds of propaganda, no matter what, because this is a festival of sport. Let’s talk about sport, not politics.”

Russian news, analysis, and translations can be found at

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