5 Reasons the Sochi Winter Olympics Could Be a Disaster
Years of planning and billions of dollars went into the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. Selected as the venue in 2007, Russia is host to the Olympics for the first time since the break-up of the Soviet Union. The last Olympics held within its borders was the 1980 Winter Olympics in Moscow.
Despite all the time, money and effort, Russia isn't looking all too ready for the start of competition in just a matter of days. In fact, the most expensive Olympics in history may even turn out to be a disaster.
No matter how smoothly the Winter Olympics in Sochi run, they're bound to be overshadowed by the enormous costs of putting it together and corruption that raises the price tag. Roughly $51 billion were spent in total on this Olympics, a budget overrun of $40 billion.
No matter how spectacular the ceremonies or how memorable the events, the cost of which is roughly $540 million each, the specter of corruption and cronyism will no doubt cast a shadow on the legacy of these Games.
If there is a symbol of Sochi's lack of readiness for the Olympics, it's this widely-circulating photo of a stall with two toilets that won't stop running.
Despite the years of preparation and billions spent, the Olympic Village in Sochi still looks very much like a work-in-progress. Sidewalks are half built; wiring is still unfinished; and piles of trash are collecting within a short distance from the Olympic Park.
Of the nine media hotels planned for the Games, only six have been built with a last minute sprint to get the other finished before the Olympics officially commence. That's not to say the hotels that are running are exactly five stars, with journalists already reporting on the mishaps they've encountered since arriving in Sochi.
Last year, Russia passed anti-gay legislation that banned the production and dissemination of what was dubbed "gay propaganda" -- in other words, images that depict homosexual relationships positively.
International outrage at the law has not stopped international athletic associations from showing up at Sochi for the Games. World leaders themselves, however, aren't planning on attending the games, with heads of state from the United States, Germany, Canada, France and other countries declining to attend.
Furthermore, there is the possibility of discrimination against homosexual athletes and visitors observing the Games. President Vladimir Putin has insisted that gay and lesbian attendees could feel comfortable in Sochi, as long as they "leave the children alone," not exactly a reassuring message. Recent reports have suggested an uptick in violence against homosexuals in Russia, as shown in a recent video feature from Human Rights Watch.
This photo depicts one of many protests that have occurred in light of Russia's discrimination towards gays and lesbians.
The Olympics are an international attraction that will draw in viewers from around the globe watching from home. How many will be watching the Games from Sochi, however, remains to be seen.
According to the Olympic organizing committee for this year's Games, as of last month only 70 percent of the 1.1 million tickets available have been sold, according to an Associated Press story. This means that when viewers are tuning in to see athletes compete, they could very well see many empty seats in the background.
Security is a concern at every Olympic Games, but Sochi is different. Russia has surrounded Sochi with a "wall of security," according to BBC News, with some 40,000 police and armed services personnel ensuring the Games go as smoothly as possible.
The Games are taking place a few hundred miles away from the Russian Caucasus, a region gripped by a violent insurgency that has seen assassinations and suicide bombings. In the months leading up to the Games in 2013, there were three suicide bombings within Volgograd (600 miles away from Sochi) all targeting public transit. There have also been warnings from terrorist groups about the intention of further attacks on the Olympics themselves.