Opponents of Vladimir Putin allege that up to $30 billion has been stolen from the budget appropriated for the 2014 Russian Sochi Winter Olympics, according to reports. The report out of Sochi, which is in Russian, says that sports complexes were built without proper competition or public tenders, and that Putin handed out lucrative contracts to friends.
There may be a heavy layer of Russian politics surrounding the controversy, which falls out of the purview of most sports blogs. That said, there seemed to be trouble amiss when the estimated budget for the Games swelled to over $50 billion, five times more than initial estimates. By comparison, the Vancouver Winter Olympics cost $6 billion. The Beijing Summer Olympics is currently the most expensive on record, and China spent just under $43 billion.
The report comes from opposition figures Boris Nemtsov and Leonid Martynyuk. Nemtsov, co-chairman of the Republican Party of Russia-People's Freedom Party, spelled out who he thought was to blame in an interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty:
"It is obvious that Putin's friends are running the preparations for the [2014 Sochi] Olympic Games," Nemtsov said. "It is also obvious that one is reluctant to put his own friends behind bars. However, we cannot look at all this passively because the scale [of their activities] will only grow bigger. The embezzlement they are presiding over is not just some kind of children's game but a real threat to Russia's national security."
So far, planning for the Sochi Games is off to an awful start. There are already major concerns whether Sochi will be cold enough to host winter sports. Russia has already begun hoarding snow in case temperatures are too high.