Sochi Winter Olympics – Putins show of strength

The 24th Winter Olympics would be held in Sochi, Russia from the 6th to 23rd February 2014. This is the first time that Russia would be hosting Olympic games post the break – up of the Soviet Union. With over 15 disciplines across skating (3 disciplines), skiing (6 disciplines), bobsleigh (2 disciplines), biathlon, curling, ice hockey and luge, it is one of the largest winter olympics.

The mascots for the games are a polar bear, a snow hare and a leopard. Apparently, the residents of Sochi had earlier selected a dolphin from 4 choices given to them in a referendum of sorts back in 2008. There was also a frog which was selected in an online poll. However, these were dropped and the earlier mentioned three were ultimately selected.

With an estimated cost of building the Olympic infrastructure topping ~ $ 50 billion (originally budgeted ~ $ 12 billion), Sochi 2014 is the most expensive Olympic games ever surpassing Beijing 2008, which cost an estimated $ 44 billion. The infrastructure includes the venues (15 modern venues to be built), upgradation of the critical telecom (Avaya is the technology partner for the games, over 700 2G/3G/4G mobile phone towers have been put up with 4G connectivitiy @ 10 mbps provided by operator Megafon), power (critical to ensure no power outages during the games) and other infra including an addtional airport terminal and back up airports, additional sea port terminal, metro, train stations. Much of the cost over – runs have been blamed on corruption. Sochi games cost more than all the previously held winter olympic games.

Controversies sure follow events of such scale. Firstly, Russia’s ‘anti gay’ laws have resulted in effective boycott of the games by western leaders. Secondly, there have been widespread corruption allegations surrounding the cost over runs of the games. Lastly, there were 3 bombings in a span of 3 months, 2 of which almost back to back in the Russian town of Volgograd. Chechen terrorist groups claimed responsibility for the same resulting in massive security anxiety surrounding the games. Russia supported in the Syria – West standoff. Apparently, according to the Daily Telegraph, the head of Saudi intelligence had offered a security guarantee of the games in exchange of breaking of the deadlock over Syria.

With such huge sums and more importantly reputation at stake, Prez Putin would go all out in ensuring the games go on smoothly.

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