Media missing real story about upcoming Winter Olympics in Russia


Once again the mainstream U.S. media has it wrong. This time it is about the upcoming February Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

As it is, it is obvious that the Putin regime should never have been offered the chance to stage an Olympic spectacle in the first place. How the 2007 decision was made to offer Putin’s Russia a chance to showcase itself is interesting enough. It says something, though, about the mentality of the Olympic committee bureaucrats that they could ever even consider such an unsuitable site for a winter games: around the city of Sochi in Russia.

Why offer a corrupt regime like that of Putin a chance to preen on the international stage? It was a bad choice to begin with, but probably also a lucrative one for the deciders.

The Western media is now in a big bind. The U.S. television rights alone are reported to have cost $775 million. The contracts have been signed. The spectacle must go on. Even Mr. Putin must be flinching at the possibility of a looming debacle for his regime. That is if the Western media covers the games as the corrupt fiasco of inefficiency and internal graft it has become instead of as a festival of pure sport entertainment which it most definitely isn’t.

What is going on in Sochi behind the scenes as the weeks tick down to the February opening?

Corruption and cronyism in Sochi

The original cost of the games was estimated by Putin’s own inner circle to be $12 billion. By now $50 billion has traded hands. Two independent Russian investigators, though, Nemstov and Martynyuk, estimate the legitimate cost is really only $24 billion. The rest of the $50 billion ($26 billion) has been the money spent on embezzlement and kickbacks.

The main beneficiaries of the Sochi corruption are the cronies of Mr. Putin. No wonder few leaders of Western democracies, including President Obama, want to be seen participating. Much of the corrupt money has gone to old friends of Mr. Putin associated with the Yavara Neva Judo Club.

The actual construction of the Olympic facilities around Sochi is being carried out by more than 16,000 immigrant workers from former Soviet Republics. According to the two investigators, forty construction accidents and twenty-five deaths occurred during the 2012 construction work. And that is just for one year. Some workers are not being paid for work done. Their hard earned money is ending up in the pockets of the general contractors, sub-contractors and the under sub-contractors. Much of the work is shoddy and hopelessly behind schedule.

Major media outlets missing the real story in Sochi

Until today, major U.S. media outlets are missing the big picture—the big disgrace of graft and corruption underlying these upcoming games. Our media is missing the real story by concentrating its attention on one of the sordid, but nevertheless smaller, aspects of the looming Olympic morass in Sochi—the anti-gay bias in the Russian legal system. The bigger story is the wider corruption and graft and injustice in Russia, of which the unsavory treatment of gays in the Russian legal system is a small symbolic part.

The Western media has a huge opportunity to expose the Putin regime for what it is—a very corrupt self-dealing mafia of crooked oligarchs. And at the same time to expose the way corruption on the international level is really functioning.

Wanna bet that the U.S. media misses this big chance to engage in truth telling? It will be unfortunate to focus the criticism of Sochi on anti-gay bias thereby missing the bigger picture of massive graft and corruption. Will the U.S. media succeed in to sanitizing these Olympic Games into a wholesome public spectacle suitable to be broadcast into U.S. living rooms? The money has flowed; the game must go on unimpeded by actual ethical scruples.

Count me out. I won’t be watching anything from Sochi. This time the ethical stench penetrates from Russia all the way into the Mohawk Valley.

For now be kind, keep reading and stay in touch with true friends.

L. D. Davidson

L. D. Davidson 's column, The Razor's Edge, appears every Wednesday.