Almost anywhere you look in the Western media for information about the Sochi Olympics, you will find reference to the super-extravagant, corruption-bloated $51-billion-dollar price tag. But nowhere can I find reference to a plausible authority for the claim. The New York Times, for example, under the heading Putin’s Olympic Fever Dream, reports without a reference to anything in the way of supporting evidence:
Putin’s government has spent a sum so staggering — officially, at least $51 billion, though according to some estimates much higher — that Sochi has become the most expensive Olympics ever, far surpassing the $40 billion that China spent on the Summer Olympics in Beijing in 2008.
From Fox News we have Putin “the Former KGB Operative” who has:
thrown open the Kremlin treasury to finance the Olympics, lavishing a record $51 billion on sports facilities and transportation infrastructure in the resort city on the Black Sea coast.
Again, the assertion of a remarkable claim, suggesting massive corruption involving President Putin, without the slightest evidence in corroboration.
Such a feeble pretense of reportage is remarkable, although its acceptance in America is perhaps explicable as the result of prolonged public exposure to social media, which it has now been discovered, lowers a user’s ability to think analytically.
The BBC, remarkably, published an audio clip headed: Sochi 2014 “did not cost $51 billion” says Olympic Organizing Committee, although the denial was in response to a question from a BBC reporter confidently asserting, without reference to any source, that the cost was $51 billion.
Which is puzzling in view of the following televised exchanges between Vladimir Putin and American and British journalists during a news conference in Sochi on January 16, 2014.
Ed Hula, US Journalist: A great deal of money has been put into Sochi to host the Olympic Games; according to the estimate, 50 billion dollars. But we have not had a chance to know the exact amount yet and to understand how much the Olympics cost. Well, how much are they? And are they worth that money? What benefits will these Games bring?
Vladimir Putin: The overall cost of the Olympics has been announced; it is 214 billion rubles. You can calculate the dollar amount dividing this figure by 33 which is a current exchange rate.
…Public investments make up 100 out of 214 billion, the rest is provided by private companies. This money is primarily put in hotel infrastructure. By the way, we have built more than 40,000 (between 41,000-43,000, as far as I know) brand new hotel rooms, which is a crucial component of resort development. That is where private investments of our companies have been allocated.*
In fact, at the time of writing, the Ruble/$US exchange is 34.7. So according to Putin, the total cost of the games is not $51 billion, but only $7.5 billion, of which state investment amounts to a mere $2.9 billion.
And, as Putin asserted, most of this expenditure consisted in the development of tourism infrastructure that will boost the economy of South Russia for years to come:
I want to begin with what we scheduled to do before the Olympics in 2006/07 when we adopted the Sochi Development Master Plan. Looking at the map of the Russian Federation, one can see a country covering mostly northern areas; today more than 70 percent of our territory is or can be referred to as northern, if not the Far North. We have a rather small warm Black sea strip in the South and – to tell the truth – quite a few regions with a hospitable warm climate. And so far we have had no contemporary resorts the Russian people could enjoy throughout that huge area. Today we are at the top of the list of those traveling on holiday abroad. As far as I know, Russians are the first among tourists going to Turkey; last year three million Russians visited that country, although its climate zone is almost the same as the one of the Black sea region. Therefore, we have had an important task to develop an infrastructure in this region of the Russian Federation. And again, to this end we have adopted a special program. But as usual there is not enough money to deal with what seems to be of the first importance; however, it is true both for Russia and any other country in the world. And when it comes to the resort development activity which is never seen as a priority, there is never enough money. Therefore, in fact our goal was to address a few tasks at one time.
The first and the most important one was to develop the South of the country, and primarily its infrastructure. And – to my mind – we have made real progress here since a completely new transport, energy and environment infrastructure has been set up. In terms of current emissions into atmosphere and those of 2007, today when the project is nearly over the amount of air pollutants is half its 2007 amount. We have achieved that result due to the use of a more eco-friendly fuel in electric power sector, two new gas pipelines and eight or nine electrical substations, as well as a cleanup of two constantly fuming dumps in the area of greater Sochi and a new transport infrastructure. All those measures helped to ease the environmental burden. Let’s admit that it is crucial for a resort.
The second task we were focused on was to re-establish training bases for high-ranking athletes. After the collapse of the Soviet Union Russia lost nearly all its training facilities in middle-altitude mountains. All of them are not ours anymore; they are either Georgian or Armenian, or Kazakhstani, I mean the Medeu skating rink. It is shameful and embarrassing but our ice skating professionals had to hold the Russian national championship in Berlin due to the lack of appropriate skating rinks. Then, we also lost all facilities related to ski jumping. Today we have built a few centers, some of them beyond Sochi. But two new Sochi ski jumps are totally unique in a technical sense; for the purposes of Olympic training we have also constructed the most sophisticated ski jumps in some other regions.
Finally, the third task was to create a new mountain cluster in order to transform this part of the Russian Federation into a resort which can be used in any season, in winter and in summer. I think that we have accomplished this task as well. Therefore, if we consider only the preparations for the Olympics, they cost 214 billion, as just 15 sport facilities have been built, while most of the money was spent on infrastructure. If we take into account some expenses associated with the development of relevant infrastructure, the sum may be larger, but those expenses are not directly related to the Olympic Games.
Putin, we can assume, was putting the best gloss on things. But where has the Western media that constantly touts the crazy, extravagant, corruption-bloated $51-billion-dollar-Olympics claim provided evidence to refute Putin?
Clearly Putin is a colossal liar engaged in looting the Russian Treasury, or the Western media are engaged in a grotesque campaign of misinformation and vilification of Russia and its leadership.
The second alternative seems most probably. Putin, as we related in our previous post, appears to be the only European leader unwilling to genocide his own people in order to replace them with migrants from elsewhere. That alone justifies referring to him as “former KGB agent” and imputing to him monstrous corruption without verifiable evidence.
The West, led by the United States and its corporate media appears now to be the chief exponent of Adolph Hitler’s big lie technique. Want to destroy Saddam? Fabricate stories about his weapons of mass destruction, his “drones of death” able at a moments notice to drench London and New York with toxic chemicals or virulent biological warfare agents.
Feel uncomfortable about Hilary giggling over the murder of Gaddhafi. Don’t worry, he was a monster, the BBC says so. Maybe. Or may the girl witnesses rounded up by the BBC were trained by the same outfit that trained this girl.
* The $5 billion private sector investment in 40,000 hotel rooms seems about right since that would be $125,000 per room, a reasonable price for construction of good quality accommodation in a relatively low wage jurisdiction.