The Sochi Winter Olympics, due to start February 7th, are already the most expensive Olympics ever. Their estimated cost, at a cool $US51 billion, is even more than than Beijing’s enormous 2008 Olympics, previously the most expensive ever, and almost three times the cost of the next most expensive winter games, which were held in 1998 in Nagano, Japan.
The original budget was just $US12 billion, so how did the Sochi games get so expensive? Well, one of the most prevalent theories is also one of the most simple — huge, widespread, systematic corruption. One prominent report from Russian opposition figures said that $30 billion in funds were stolen from the games, but by whom and how?
Today, the most exhaustive account of the alleged corruption has appeared — in a handy, easy-to-use, translated-to-English map, which you can check out here.
The map has been published by the Anti-Corruption Foundation, a group founded by well-known opposition figure Alexei Navalny. Navalny, a 37-year-old lawyer and activist, has been one of the most prominent figures in the opposition movement that sprang up after the disputed 2011 Duma elections, and has earned himself the ire of the Russian state before.
Nalavny has focused on Russian corruption in the past — his popular LiveJournal blog largely works as a way of revealing official corruption, and it’s been effective, forcing some key members of the Russian elite to resign just last year. This time, his team of 23 people spent months going through documentation to find out where all of the money actually went.
What’s really interesting about his Sochi project, however, is just how easy it is to use. While Navalny told the Huffington Post that his investigation hasn’t turned up that much that wasn’t already known, having it all together in one place really makes the scale of the alleged corruption striking.
For example, the main Olympic stadium is reportedly 14 times over its original budget, and 2.5 more expensive than other similar stadiums:
Then there’s the enormous cost of the now-notorious road linking Sochi with the snow-based events, which take place 30 miles away in the mountains. The project was run by a friend of Putin’s, with final costs of $US8.7 billion roughly in line with the entire budget for the 2010 Vancouver Games.
Other reports of overspending include a $US15 million helicopter for the local governor, a speed-skating arena seven times over budget, and the award of a $US2.5 million worth of contracts to Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s ski instructor.
It may well make for a depressing read for Russians, though they had likely heard about a lot of the stories before (Michael Weiss of the Daily Beast cites one poll that found two-thirds of the country believe funds for the Olympics were misused or stolen). There is one small, tiny ray of light, however — Navalny’s research found that the actual cost of the Olympics was around $US45.8 billion, a minor improvement on that $US51 billion estimate.
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