Krasnaya Polyana, Russia, 2010 Photo © Rob Hornstra
Since Russian President Vladamir Putin made his bid to host the Olympics in 2007, The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi Russia, have earned a reputation for being the most expensive and most corrupt in history. Today the reported total cost for the Sochi games is about 50 billion dollars and it’s reported that a large amount of that sum has made it’s way into the pockets of contractors and Kremlin officials in the form of bribes and kickbacks.
The most notorious example of the games’ shady finances is the highway built from the Olympic Village on the Black Sea up to mountains, where the skiing events will be held. At 8 billion dollars, the 30 mile road cost more than the entire Vancouver winter games. According to the Russian edition of Esquire, the road could have been paved with a centimeter-thick layer of beluga caviar for the same price.
And that’s just the corruption. Russian officials and construction companies have also been harshly criticized for environmental damage, human rights violations, and forced evictions of residents living near Olympic construction sites. On top of that, there are the Islamic separatists based in the North Caucasus who have vowed to carry out a terrorist attack at the Olympics.
So, before we spend the next two weeks listening to Bob Costas talk about figure skating, bobsleds and Shaun white, I figured we’d do a show about what the hell is going on in Sochi.
Sochi, Russia, 2010 – View on the future Olympic village near the Russian Black Sea resort Sochi, host city of the XXII Olympic Winter Games and XI Paralympic Winter Games in 2014, as well as the Russian Formula 1 Grand Prix from 2014. It is also one of the host cities for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. © Rob Hornstra
First, we speak with Simone Baumann. She’s the executive producer of Putin’s Games, a documentary that follows the construction process in Sochi. When I talked to Simone last week I learned that she got to experience a bit of Olympic corruption first hand: Russian officials offered her 600,00 euros to scrap the release of the film. “In that case it’s better not to negotiate anything, just to wrap up the conversation and tell them ‘I’m not interested.’ That’s what I did.” In our interview, Simone also tells us about the Mayor of Sochi putting on a show for her cameras, the problems with the International Olympic Committee, and the invention of new Russian words to describe the shady flow of Olympic money.
Still from Putin’s Games
Next, we learn about the region around Sochi from photographer Rob Hornstra, co-founder of The Sochi Project. From 2009 to 2013 Rob, along with writer Arnold van Bruggen, travelled around Sochi to report on what you’re not going to see on TV during the Olympics. “It was our ambition,” Rob says, “to document the region around Sochi and bring alternative stories from the region hosting the most expensive winter games ever.”
Included in The Sochi Project are images of Soviet-Era sanatoriums, landscapes from the mountains of Dagestan, found images, and portraits of people affected by violence in the North Caucasus. Aperture has just published work from The Sochi Project in a new book: An Atlas of War and Tourism in the Caucasus.
The Beach – The railway line from Sochi to Sukhum in Abkhazia hugs the coast. Behind it rise the sanatoria of Adler, just south of Sochi’s large, famous Stalinist sanatoria. Adler, Sochi region, Russia, 2011 from The Sochi Project: An Atlas of War and Tourism in the Caucasus (Aperture/The Sochi Project, 2013) © Rob Hornstra
Dima Burned His Legs, Mistiest, RUSSIA, 2009 – Dima is holding his leg under sulphite water from the Matsesta spa. A few years ago his leg was burned by an accident. Matsesta has been a spa since 1902. The Matsesta water, containing plenty of hydrogen sulphide, has unique medical properties. Matsesta baths heal a lot of diseases. © Rob Hornstra
Aliona – Striptease dancer Aliona waits outside the restaurant in Zhemchuzhina Hotel, while a mediocre singer entertains the audience with Russian chansons. Sochi, Russia, 2011 from The Sochi Project: An Atlas of War and Tourism in the Caucasus (Aperture/The Sochi Project, 2013) © Rob Hornstra
A Two-Hundred-Year Conflict – In the 19th century, as now, Gimry was a center of resistance to Russian hegemony in the North Caucasus. Gimry, Dagestan, 2012 from The Sochi Project: An Atlas of War and Tourism in the Caucasus (Aperture/The Sochi Project, 2013) © Rob Hornstra
Hamzad Saved Cowards – Hamzad Ivloev, forty-four, was a policeman in Karabulak. One night his checkpoint was attacked. “I sacrificed myself for a bunch of cowards,” he says bitterly. Karabulak, Ingushetia, 2012 from The Sochi Project: An Atlas of War and Tourism in the Caucasus (Aperture/The Sochi Project, 2013) © Rob Hornstra
Music on the show:
Russian Folk – Troika
Moscow Guitars – The Jokers
Flying Over Russia – Marine Girls
The psych-rockers just wanna jam and share their music with the world—is that so wrong? | read
A short film featuring NYC artist and musician Joanna Sternberg. | watch