Sochi 2014 isn’t the first modern Olympic games to raise eyebrows and give reasons for concern, but it certainly is the latest example to do so.
Beijing 2008 had the world wondering whether or not China would be able to walk onto the world stage and successfully host the games overshadowed by thick clouds of smog and the Chinese Communist Party. Even Athens 2004, the birthplace of the original Olympic Games, gave the International Olympic Committee (IOC) worries because of its lagging economy and infrastructure that does not reflect the thriving city-state that it once was.
Fast forward six years and Russia is now preparing to host its first games post-Soviet Union and show the world that it is still a capable leading power.
Sochi and the president who leads it, Vladimir Putin, have continuously made headlines over the last year regarding the new anti-gay propaganda laws in the Russian Federation and whether or not they would be enforced during the games towards LGBTQ athletes. Putin’s crackdown on and arrests of gay people have clashed with the IOC and Russian government’s messages that LGBTQ athletes will be safe while competing in the games.
The terrorist threats towards the games and the terror-related incidents that have already occurred are also a pressing concern for the international community. The U.S. Department of State has even issued a Travel Alert for the Sochi Games, giving the sense that these games are a completely different animal than previous Olympics.
But never mind the threats and the fact that Sochi will end up costing more than any other modern Olympic Games in history. The fear this week is whether or not Sochi is logistically ready for the games in the final week before the Opening Ceremony this Friday.
Hotels are still unfinished. A shopping mall sits uncompleted. Much of the construction gives off the impression of a “Soviet-style dystopia.” None of the buildings have names, only numbers, with some of the numbers not even assigned yet. There’s even a report of stray dogs breaking through security checkpoints and making it into the media center.
Most of the venues where the games will be played, however, are ready. The mountain venue where the snow-related events will take place is a 40 minute bus ride outside Sochi and is apparently looking presentable.
But Putin had seven years to build the games and this is one of his dreams that he is coming close to not fulfilling if the finishing touches aren’t hurried up.
Despite the topic of most Olympics leading up to the Opening Ceremony being that the games aren’t ready, Sochi is running dangerously close to breaking the mold and actually not being ready.
These games are already historic enough as it is, being the first games held by the Russian Federation and also the most expensive, but Putin probably doesn’t want to be remembered as the leader who didn’t come in on time and on budget.