Alexei Navalny has launched an interactive website displaying the results of his investigations into corruption in the construction projects for the Sochi Winter Olympics. The report was translated by The Interpreter, and an analysis of the report has been written by our editor-in-chief, Michael Weiss.
Below is an article published in Lenta.ru, a liberal Russian media outlet. It both highlights several key claims and questions some points made within the report. — Ed..
Opposition member Alexei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Fund went live today with a web site, “Encyclopedia of Expenses – the Price of the Olympics,” devoted to the outlays for organizing and running the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi. The site is in the form of an interactive map with the Olympic venues designated.
As Navalny describes on his blog, the Fund designed the site because they were “sick of looking at how the numbers of Olympic construction projects were being juggled” by Russian officials. In particular, he referred to a statement by Vice Premier Dmitry Kozak that a total of 214 billion rubles was spent on the Olympics.
The main page of “Encyclopedia of Expenses” shows the calculation by which the overall expenditures on the Olympic Games came to 1.5 trillion rubles. This figure was obtained by combining the expenditures fro the federal budget on the sports facilities and infrastructure (822 billion rubles), the expenditures of state companies (343 billions), the loans provided by Vneshekonombank (249 billion), private investments (53 billion), and the budget expenditures of Krasnodar Territory (33 billion rubles).
The authors of the research further included in the total sum all the loans from Vneshekonombank (VEB), which the Olympic investors received, expecting that they would not be returned. This contradicts the statements of the bank itself that there are only loans totaling 190 billion rubles that possibly have to be restructured.
The “Encyclopedia” also provides figures for the costs of the construction of the Olympic and infrastructure facilities in Sochi. The map of each site is accompanied by an analysis of how inflated its cost was by comparison with analogous facilities in other countries. For example, the cost of elements of the combined Adler-Krasnaya Polyana railroad and automobile highway have been compared with the costs of construction of the roads, tunnels and bridges abroad. The cost of the combined road (285 billion rubles) was inflated 1.9 times, in the opinion of the authors of the report.
Nevertheless, in comparing the costs of venues, there are dubious estimates on the web site. Thus, the Shayba ice arena is compared in the report with the cost of one spectator’s seat in the stadiums in South Korea’s Pyeongchang which are not completed yet, whose estimated costs are significantly lower. The authors did not take into account that in reality, the cost of the South Korean facilities could rise by the completion of construction.
There are also contradictions in the descriptions of the sites. The brief note on the Olympic Village says that investors will find it difficult after the Games to sell the real estate as a housing complex. “One guest room in the village costs as much as a two-bedroom apartment in Moscow.” Moreover, in the detailed description, the Sochi residence is compared only by the price per square meter, which is comparable to the Moscow price, and not by the cost of specific apartments or hotel spaces.
“We have always said that it is absolutely inappropriate to call all the investment costs in Sochi costs for the Olympics. That figure that even the president cited of 214 billion rubles – that is spending on the construction of the Olympic sites and infrastructure for the sites directly related to their maintenance. As for the investments in transportation infrastructure, energy, utilities, environmental, then on the whole, these figures coincide in Navalny’s report with what has been cited at an official level but to call them spending on the Olympics would be inappropriate,” Ilya Dzhus, an official representative of Vice Premier Dmitry Kozak commented on the report presented.
Representatives of the Russian opposition had earlier repeatedly commented on the scale of corruption in the organization of the Sochi Olympics. Politician Boris Nemtsov in particular prepared a report, Winter Olympics in the Sub-Tropics, in which he estimated the percentage of corrupt embezzlement during the preparation of the Games to be about 50-60%. Dmitry Kozak, for his part, announced that an investigation had not found any unauthorized use of funds. President Vladimir Putin noted that “Large-scale corrupt phenomena in the implementing of the Sochi project” were not found.