Under different circumstances I would snark about unethical, unsavory, and possibly illegal behavior in Russia in light of the past year’s events, but I can’t do that today.
I usually watch the Olympics, but I don’t think I’ll be doing that this year because I cannot support what Sochi represents.
Gizmodo has a full rundown of the problems currently plaguing the Winter Olympics which formally begin this week
On “shady dealings”
One International Olympic Committee member recently reported that as much as a third of Sochi’s budget has been siphoned off in shady dealings.
Other deals seemed to verge on blackmail. “Participating in Sochi is a kind of tax for the oligarchs,” former Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov told Der Spiegel. “If you want to continue doing business in Russia, then you have to help Putin.” For example, the massive state-run oil company Gazprom is responsible for $3 billion worth of construction, from the cross-country skiing and biathlon center, to a third of the Olympic Village, to a massive power plant outside of Sochi.
Damage to the environment
Despite the fact that Russia claimed the Games would be “zero waste,” the impact on Sochi, a protected wildlife area, has been dramatic. Sections of the National Park have been destroyed. A massive quarry has caused wells to dry up and dust to coat entire villages. Contractors are accused of creating secret, illegal landfills to deal with the construction refuse.
Treatment of workers
And then there are the underpaid (or unpaid) migrant workers who are actually doing the work. Sochi has been flooded with workers from Central Asia over the past four years, and Human Rights Watch has documented millions in unpaid wages, horrific working conditions, and violent abuse.
Meanwhile, Serbian and Bosnian workers have been arrested and expelled without explanation. Workers who have spoken out have been brutally abused.
There’s much more.
The city of Sochi has reportedly hired a firm to capture and kill stray dogs.
The city has a contract with a “pest control firm” in the area for the express purpose of exterminating stray dogs throughout the Olympics, which begin this Friday. Alexei Sorokin, the company’s director general, said they’d be “catching and disposing” of the dogs, but would not elaborate on the part between the catching and the disposing. (The murdering).
Other highlights include the inability to flush toilet paper.
There’s also the twin toilets that are a real thing that exists.
And while some hotels are technically complete, they forgot to fasten the nuts and bolts.
— Simon Stanleigh (@Stanleigh77) February 2, 2014
And apparently Freedom Industries is operating inside Sochi.
— Stacy St. Clair (@StacyStClair) February 4, 2014
And on and on.
“The outdoor area and floors/staircase/elevator inside were still under construction and completely dirty,” Reuter wrote, adding that the room he was shown “had no light in the main room, the water out of the tap was yellow/brown, the air conditioning, TV, kitchenware were all not working … Beside this the room was totally dirty and everywhere covered with dust.”
The next room was worse.
“In some rooms you actually saw that there are still the construction workers sleeping and living,” he wrote.
And to top it all off, Human Rights Watch released this video today documenting the assault and beating of gay persons in Russia where this sort of behavior is openly tolerated.
(Warning: graphic video)
This is an international embarrassment. Or at least it should be.