Navalny and the Interpreter on Sochi

January 27, 2014
The corrupt Sochi Olympics were funded by some of Putin's cronies in the US sanctions list, as we have reported the last year. Photo by REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

In a blockbuster report released today, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny details the waste, fraud, and mismanagement behind the most expensive Olympics ever.

It was inevitable that Alexey Navalny would do something big with the Olympics. The opposition leader famous for his anti-graft muckraking — and put on show trial for bogus “embezzlement” charges — couldn’t let the biggest racket in Russian history pass without his own peal-back of corporate cronyism, cost inflation, and outright criminality. The upcoming 2014 Winter Games in Sochi is now estimated to have cost more than $50 billion, a price tag higher than the last 21 Winter Games combined and more expensive than any Summer Games ever held.  (The fact that Russia, a country associated with arctic temperatures, would hold an ice-and-snow competition in its warmest climate was a bit of an early giveaway of future book-cooking.)

Today, Navalny’s Foundation for Fighting Corruption has launched an interactive website — which my magazine, The Interpreter , translated into English — outlining some of the juicier bits of Sochi waste and mismanagement. The names and figures behind each building, hotel, media center, and ski slope are detailed: who did the building, who paid for it, who really paid for it, and who got fired or indicted.

But the Foundation’s real service is adding meat on the bones of what most Russians already suspected. A poll taken last year found that two-thirds of the country is convinced that much of the money allocated for Sochi was either misused or “simply stolen.”

An Olympic media center, for instance, which will house 8,000 journalists, was built by Inzhtransstroy Corp. Ltd., a company 51 percent-co-owned, through a subsidiary, by Arkady Rotenberg, Vladimir Putin’s old friend and judo partner—and, naturally, a billionaire. Opposition figures Boris Nemtsov and Leonid Martynyuk, who have produced their own report on Sochi corruption (also translated by The Interpreter) say that enterprises owned or affiliated with Arkady and his brother Boris, who’s also matey with Putin, were the second-highest recipients  of state funding for Sochi, following only Olimpstroy, the state corporation overseeing all preparations for Sochi, and just ahead of Yakunin’s Russian Railways.  “They have received 21 contracts for Olympics constructions at a cost of 229 billion rubles ($7 billion),” Nemtsov and Martynyuk write.


Read the whole report on The Daily Beast…