The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi are fast approaching, and Russia is ready for the international spotlight. Sort of.
Despite a reported $51 billion spent, major eyesores still dot the Black Sea resort town of Sochi. It’s a dilemma for any Olympic host city: glittering, glowing arenas built in place of old neighborhoods, while run-down, dilapidated areas stand just blocks away. Because of the sheer amount of money spent—five times more than Vancouver shelled out to host the Winter Olympics in 2010—the contrast is starker. Is it any wonder “Potemkin village” is an originally Russian phrase?
Nothing can illustrate the Olympic-size gulf between the Sochi facade and reality better than a photographic tour. Pictures from Sochi’s press office show an impressive and prepared city, ready to awe the world. The website BlogSochi.ru, however, shows sidewalks already falling apart, endless construction and ugly piles of rubble and debris.
Numbers Don't Lie
Opposition leader Alexei Navalny published a detailed report on the $51 billion price tag and its attendant corruption earlier this week. BuzzFeed breaks it down in a digestible listicle.
Brightly colored Olympic rings adorn a brand-new Radisson hotel.
The picture on the sign shows what the Olympic volunteers’ building was supposed to look like, but as you can see, it’s far from gleaming and desperately in need of a new coat of paint.
The athletes will receive a little better treatment than the volunteers: This is their temporary housing in the Olympic Village, with the Bolshoy Ice Dome in the background. The Fabergé-egg-shaped 12,000-seat arena will host ice hockey at the games.
Gustav Fabergé was a Russian jeweller whose son, Peter Carl, designed the famous Fabergé eggs. The Bolshoy Ice Dome and the Fischt Olympic Stadium were constructed with the egg in mind.
Back to the volunteers: They’re trying to build a plumbing system there in a hurry, even though the construction was supposed to be finished in the spring of last year. But due to delays in wiring the power supply cables, there is still not electricity.
Sochi is, after all, a tropical “resort town,” but who exactly will be taking a dip during the games?
This, muddy, torn up field seems to be doubling as an open-air trash can just off to the side of a recently constructed major road in Sochi.
A lovely view of the Bolshoy Ice Dome from athlete housing in the Olympic Village. The window reflects a view of the Black Sea. That’s good photography, Sochi Press Office.
The Other Egg
Fisht Olympic Stadium, a 40,000 seat arena, cost about $600 million to build. That's about 14 times more than anticipated. But it is badass: The glass surface reflects sunlight off the Black Sea, which the open upper deck will allow spectators to see. There's also a view of the Krasnaya Polyana mountains to the north. The opening and closing ceremonies will take place here, and after the games, the Russian national football team will use it for matches and the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
This is Akatsiy Street, a little over half a kilometer from the Olympic Park. This is one of the hundreds of garbage dumps piled with debris from Olympic construction.
OK, last shot, drink it down.
Colorful athlete accommodations.
The side of a new road near the Olympic Park remains a total mess.
Back in October, it became apparent that Russia had most definitely broken its “Zero Waste” Olympic pledge. The massive budget didn’t include any line items for what to do with construction waste. Now we know: Dump it on the side of roads and hope no one notices.