Pictures of Sochi last week look like they come from 1950’s dystopian novel and the Olympic signs seem covered in grime and dirt with rubble surrounding them. The streets look half finished and are littered with road crews and cranes finishing building interiors still under construction. The tiling in parks seem unwieldy and hotels won’t be ready for journalists visiting the Olympics. Buildings are organized by number but the identifying signs haven’t been made yet giving off every impression that Sochi is not ready to accept the hordes of athletes and spectators for the winter Olympics.
Sochi was originally a resort city overlooking the black sea. Beaches, once used for tanning and sight seeing have been converted into shoddy boardwalks. Russia built massive infrastructure in Sochi in the past 7 years estimated to have cost more than $50 billion and the funding seems inadequately spent. The city spent nearly $3.1 million dollars on pictures of flower displays to liven up the city when the streets themselves A local citizen’s home was seized and destroyed for the Olympic Park before relevant document were signed. He was not compensated.
People are concerned that the Olympics are being held in a war zone. Recent bombings occurred on a bus and at a railway station in the city of Volgograd 400 miles away. As one of the few cities connecting Sochi to the rest of Europe. Athletes and spectators may have to pass Volgograd to reach the Olympic games. Threats to Sochi began as early as 2005, when a Chechen separatist movement declared Islamic holy war between the Caspian and Black seas. Many political extremists and even rogue branches of the Russian government have possible interest in terrorist attacks to Sochi, but Vladimir V. Putin, the President of Russia, hired Police and Russian Military that compares to almost eleven percent of Sochi’s population of 350,000. Any terrorist threats from the air will be met by fighter pilots and drones as well as anti-aircraft missiles.
While Sochi itself seems, more than adequately protected from terrorists, I feel that traveling spectators excited to see the Olympics this year are in considerable danger when traveling near cities around Sochi and by the stray dogs running rampant around Sochi. Dogs are even getting into heavily guarded buildings like the Olympic Media Center and a stray interrupted a dress rehearsal a week before the opening ceremony. Mass extermination of the dogs were ordered to begin last week. Animal rights activists protested against the extermination and local authorities pledged to build an animal shelter for the dogs and announced the construction of one for 100 dogs. No evidence of a shelter exists so far and considering the current trend of building construction, it is not likely that there will be one. People can only protest against Sochi development in the town of Khosta twelve miles away. Only through a wall of government bureaucracy can they rally in the protest zone.
While Olympic officials and Russian representatives insist on the success of the Winter Olympics this year I have my doubts as to the safety of the spectators and the local citizens.