Vancouver Olympics: Embarrassed Russia looks to 2014 Sochi Olympics
Russia's dismal showing at the Vancouver Olympics may be the least of the Kremlin's worries as allegations of corruption mar preparations for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
The Vancouver Olympics are over and the torch now passes to Sochi, the subtropical Soviet-era seaside resort town that may be the most unlikely venue ever designated to host a major winter sporting event.Skip to next paragraph
The Kremlin, which has invested $17 billion in a breakneck program to get the sleepy and remote coastal town ready to host the 2014 Games, had clearly hoped the spotlight would shift from Vancouver to Sochi amid the warm glow of Russian athletic triumph.
But, instead, Team Russia turned in the country's worst Olympic performance ever, finishing in sixth place, with a total of 15 medals, just three of them gold. By comparison, the Russian winter athletes at Turin in 2006 brought home 22 medals, including eight golds.
That historic failure has triggered an outpouring of bitterness and recrimination, extending from the streets to the upper echelons of power, and seems bound to intensify scrutiny of the deeply troubled preparations for the upcoming Sochi Winter Olympics.
"Those responsible should take the brave decision and sign a letter [of resignation]. If they can't, we will help them," President Dmitry Medvedev said in a televised interview Monday, addressing the sports bureaucrats and Russian Olympic officials that most Russians deem to be guilty for the collapse of their once proud athletic machine.
But the poor showing of Russia's first fully post-Soviet generation of athletes in Vancouver, and the challenge of retraining them to win on their home turf in four years time, may be the least of the Kremlin's worries.
The still-powerful former President Vladimir Putin pulled out all the stops to win the 2014 Winter Games for Sochi, but preparation efforts have now become embroiled in allegations of corruption, poor planning, environmental disaster, and accusations that local authorities are suppressing media coverage of Olympic snags.
Sochi – no snow, lots of corruption
"It would be very hard to find a place in Russia that has no snow in the wintertime, but that's just what Putin did," says Boris Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister, Sochi native and co-author of a critical report on the Olympic preparations around Sochi.