Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 December 2014

Sochi Winter Olympics 2014: What kind of Games does £31bn buy you?

Robin Scott-Elliot wonders if President Putin should ask for his money back

Fireworks explode over Olympic Park at the end of the closing ceremony for the 2014 Winter Olympics, Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
Fireworks explode over Olympic Park at the end of the closing ceremony for the 2014 Winter Olympics, Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
Dancers reenact the Opening Ceremony ring failure during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 23, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
Olympic mascots the Hare, the Polar Bear and the Leopard perform during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 23, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
The magic of circus is performed during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 23, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
The magic of circus is performed during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 23, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
Performers celebrate Russian culture during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 23, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
Members of protest group Pussy Riot speak during a press conference on February 20, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images
Gold medalist Alexander Legkov of Russia celebrates during the flower ceremony for the Men's 50 km Mass Start Free during day 16 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Laura Cross-country Ski & Biathlon Center on February 23, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images
Krystyna Palka of Poland competes during the Women's 4 x 6 km Relay during day 14 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Laura Cross-country Ski & Biathlon Center on February 21, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images
Great Britain's Lizzie Yarnold with her Gold medal she won in the Women's Skeleton, during the Medal Ceremony at the Medals Plaza, at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia
Russian President Vladimir Putin claps during the third period of a men's ice hockey game between the USA and Russia at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
Ireland's Seamus O'Connor pictured during his second run during Qualification heat of the Men's Halfpipe competition at the Extreme Park in the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.
Ireland's Seamus O'Connor pictured during his semi final run of the Men's Halfpipe competition at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park in the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.
Ireland's Seamus O'Connor is dejected after his semi final run of the Men's Halfpipe competition at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park in the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.
Daniela Iraschko-Stolz of Austria lands her jump during the Ladies' Normal Hill Individual final round on day 4 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the RusSki Gorki Ski Jumping Center on February 11, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.
Silver medalist Ayumu Hirano of Japan, gold medalist Iouri Podladtchikov of Switzerland and bronze medalist Taku Hiraoka of Japan celebrate on the podium during the flower ceremony for the Snowboard Men's Halfpipe Finals on day four of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park on February 11, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images
Shaun White of the United States crashes out in the Snowboard Men's Halfpipe Finals on day four of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park on February 11, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
Sara Takanashi of Japan jumps during the Ladies' Normal Hill Individual trial on day 4 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the RusSki Gorki Ski Jumping Center on February 11, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Nana Fujimoto #30 of Japan makes a save against Russia during the Women's Ice Hockey Preliminary Round Group B game on day four of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Shayba Arena on February 11, 2014 in Sochi, Russia
Britain's Dominic Harrington pictured during Monday nights training session ahead of Tuesdays Snowboard Halfpipe event at the Extreme Park in the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.
Marc-Antoine Gagnon of Canada competes in the Men's Moguls Finals on day three of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park on February 10, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo by Julian Finney
Silver medalists Kaetlyn Osmond, Patrick Chan, Kevin Reynolds, Meagan Duhamel, Eric Radford, Kirsten Moore-Towers, Dylan Moscovitch, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada, gold medalists Yulia Lipnitskaya, Evgeny Plyushchenko, Ksenia Stolbova, Fedor Klimov, Tatiana Volosozhar, Maxim Trankov, Ekaterina Bobrova, Dmitri Soloviev, Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov of Russia and bronze medalists Gracie Gold, Ashley Wagner, Jeremy Abbott, Jason Brown, Maria Castelli, Simon Shnapir, Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the United States celebrate during the medal ceremony for the Team Figure Skating Overall during the medal ceremony on day 3 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Medals Plaza in the Olympic Park on February 10, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo by Streeter Lecka
A Japanese team official shouts instructions during the Men's Moguls Qualification on day three of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park on February 10, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo by Ryan Pierse
Ben Sandford of New Zealand prepares to make a run during a Men's Skeleton training session on Day 3 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the Sanki Sliding Center on February 10, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo by Alex Livesey
Gold medalist Charles Hamelin of Canada celebrates with Marianne St-Gelais after wiining the Short Track Men's 1500m Final on day 3 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Iceberg Skating Palace on February 10, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
Sjinkie Knegt of Netherlands and Se Young Park of South Korea compete in the Short Track Men's 1500m Final B on day 3 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Iceberg Skating Palace on February 10, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Kamil Stoch of Poland celebrates winning gold after his jump in the Men's Normal Hill Individual Final on day 2 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the RusSki Gorki Ski Jumping Center on February 9, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images
Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov of Russia compete in the Team Ice Dance Free Dance during day two of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Iceberg Skating Palace onon February 9, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images
Silver medalist Albert Demchenko of Russia, gold medalist Felix Loch of Germany and bronze medalist Armin Zoeggeler of Italy on the podium during the flower ceremony for the Men's Luge Singles on Day 2 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Sliding Center Sanki on February 9, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Severin Freund of Germany crashes upon landing during the Men's Normal Hill Individual first round on day 2 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the RusSki Gorki Ski Jumping Center on February 9, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images
Felix Loch of Germany celebrates winning the gold medal during the Men's Luge Singles on Day 2 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Sliding Center Sanki on February 9, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Members of the Sweden ice hockey team celebrate their 1-0 win over Japan during the Women's Ice Hockey Preliminary Round Group B Game on day two of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Shayba Arena on February 9, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo by Bruce Bennett
Russia's Sergey Volkov pictured during the Mens Moguls event at the Extreme Park in the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics
Canada's Alex Bilodeau pictured during the Mens Moguls event at the Extreme Park in the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics
Dancers perform during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo by Pascal Le Segretain
Diana Vishneva performs Dove of Peace during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Martina Kocher of Switzerland makes a run during a Women's Luge Singles training session on Day 2 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the Sanki Sliding Center on February 9, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo by Alex Livesey
Yuliya Skokova of Russia competes during the Women's 3000m Speed Skating event during day 2 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Adler Arena Skating Center on February 9, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo by Quinn Rooney
Dario Cologna of Switzerland reacts to winning the Men's Skiathlon 15 km Classic + 15 km Free during day two of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Laura Cross-country Ski & Biathlon Center on February 9, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo by Richard Heathcote
Eva Logar of Slovenia jumps during the Ladies' Normal Hill Individual Ski Jumping training on day 2 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the RusSki Gorki Ski Jumping Center on February 9, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images
Gold medalist Jamie Anderson of the United States celebrates during the medal ceremony for the Women's Snowboard Slopestyle Finals on 2 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Medals Plaza on February 9, 2014 in Sochi. Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Jenny Jones celebrates after fining out she won bronze
Felix Loch of Germany celebrates winning the gold medal during the Men's Luge Singles on Day 2 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Sliding Center Sanki on February 9, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo by Alexander Hassenstein
Valentin Cretu of Romania takes part in a men's luge training session ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the Sanki Sliding Center on February 6, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo by Julian Finney
Ireland's Seamus O'Connor was delighted with his efforts in the snowboard slopestyle semi-final.
Fireworks are seen over the Olympic Park during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi (AP)
Performers wearing illuminated suits form the Russian flag during the Winter Olympics opening ceremony in Sochi
One of the rings forming the Olympic Rings fails to open during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi (AP)
Julia Lavrentieva and Yun Rudyk of Ukraine compete in the Figure Skating Pairs Short Program during the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Iceberg Skating Palace on February 6, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo by Clive Mason
Junko Hoshino of Japan trains during moguls practice at the Extreme Park at Rosa Khutor Mountain ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics on February 5, 2014 in Sochi, Russia Photo by Cameron Spencer
Alex Bilodeau of Canada trains during moguls practice at the Extreme Park at Rosa Khutor Mountain ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics on February 5, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo by Streeter Lecka
Junko Hoshino of Japan competes during Ladies' Moguls Qualification at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park on February 6, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo by Ryan Pierse
Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov of Russia compete in the Figure Skating Pairs Short Program during the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Iceberg Skating Palace on February 6, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo by Clive Mason
Semen Pavlichenko of Russia prepares to make a run during the men's luge training session ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the Sanki Sliding Center on February 6, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photo by Julian Finney
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 05: Biathlete Cristoph Stefan of Germany shoots during a training session ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the Laura Cross-Country Ski and Biathlon Center on February 5, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
A competitor takes a jump during a ski slopestyle training session at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, prior to the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 06: Marvin Dixon of Jamaica poses with Olympic mascots ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Rosa Khutor Athletes Vllage on February 6, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 06: Australian arial skiier Dave Morris poses on the Olympic Rings in the Athletes Village ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Rosa Khutor on February 6, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 06: Australian arial skiier Dave Morris poses on the Olympic Rings in the Athletes Village ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Rosa Khutor on February 6, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 05: The Olympic Rings are seen in water droplets ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the Laura Cross-Country Ski and Biathlon Center on February 5, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 05: A dog sits outside a vehicle security checkpoint ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics near the Olympic Park on February 5, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 05: Maria Sharapova joins Nike in reopening her newly refurbished hometown tennis court at Riviera Park Egorova on February 5, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for Nike)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 05: Seppe Smits of Belgium practices during training for Snowboard Slopestyle at the Extreme Park at Rosa Khutor Mountain on February 5, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Chemmy Alcott of Great Britain poses during a portrait session ahead of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games on January 27, 2014 in London, England. Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images
Great Britain's Charlotte Gilmartin (left) and Elise Christie (right) during speed skatering practice in the Iceberg Skating Palace. during the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.
Great Britain's Billy Morgan during the Snowboard Slopestyle practice in the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, Sochi, Russia
Great Britain's Billy Morgan during todays Snowboard Slopestyle practice at the the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, Sochi, Russia. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday February 3, 2014. See PA story OLYMPICS Snowboarding. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: For news services only. Editorial purposes only. No video emulation.
A Snowboarder during the snowboard slopestyle training at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, Sochi, Russia. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday February 3, 2014. See PA story OLYMPICS Snowboarding. Photo credit should read: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: For news services only. Editorial purposes only. No video emulation.
An unnamed snowboarder makes a jump during the snowboard slopestyle training at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, Sochi, Russia. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday February 3, 2014. See PA story OLYMPICS Snowboarding. Photo credit should read: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: For news services only. Editorial purposes only. No video emulation.
Ireland's Seamus O'Connor during the snowboard practice at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday February 3, 2014. See PA story OLYMPICS Snowboarding. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: For news services only. Editorial purposes only. No video emulation.
An jump is inspected during slopestyle training at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park ahead of the start of 2014 Winter Games in Sochi. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday February 3, 2014. See PA story OLYMPICS Snowboarding. Photo credit should read: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: For news services only. Editorial purposes only. No video emulation.
An unnamed snowboarder makes a jump during the snowboard slopestyle training at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, Sochi, Russia. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday February 3, 2014. See PA story OLYMPICS Snowboarding. Photo credit should read: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: For news services only. Editorial purposes only. No video emulation.
An unnamed snowboarder makes a jump during the snowboard slopestyle training at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, Sochi, Russia. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday February 3, 2014. See PA story OLYMPICS Snowboarding. Photo credit should read: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: For news services only. Editorial purposes only. No video emulation.
An unnamed snowboarder makes a jump during the snowboard slopestyle training at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, Sochi, Russia. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday February 3, 2014. See PA story OLYMPICS Snowboarding. Photo credit should read: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: For news services only. Editorial purposes only. No video emulation.
Paint is sprayed on the slopestyle course at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, Sochi, Russia. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday February 3, 2014. See PA story OLYMPICS Snowboarding. Photo credit should read: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: For news services only. Editorial purposes only. No video emulation.
Great Britain's Billy Morgan during the snowboard slopestyle training at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, Sochi, Russia. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday February 3, 2014. See PA story OLYMPICS Snowboarding. Photo credit should read: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: For news services only. Editorial purposes only. No video emulation.
Great Britain's Billy Morgan during the snowboard slopestyle training at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, Sochi, Russia. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday February 3, 2014. See PA story OLYMPICS Snowboarding. Photo credit should read: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: For news services only. Editorial purposes only. No video emulation.
An American athlete (name not know) makes a jump during the ski slopestyle training at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, Sochi, Russia. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday February 3, 2014. See PA story OLYMPICS Skiiing. Photo credit should read: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: For news services only. Editorial purposes only. No video emulation.
Australia's Nicole Parks crashes out in the ladies moguls training run at The Rosa Khutor Extreme Park during the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday February 4, 2014. See PA story OLYMPICS Skiing. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: For news services only. Editorial purposes only. No video emulation.
USA's Hannah Kearney in the ladies moguls training run at The Rosa Khutor Extreme Park during the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday February 4, 2014. See PA story OLYMPICS Skiing. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: For news services only. Editorial purposes only. No video emulation.
Australia's Nicole Parks crashes out in the ladies moguls training run at The Rosa Khutor Extreme Park during the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday February 4, 2014. See PA story OLYMPICS Skiing. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: For news services only. Editorial purposes only. No video emulation.
An athlete (name not known) during the Ski Slopestyle practice in the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, Sochi, Russia. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday February 3, 2014. See PA story OLYMPICS Skiing. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: For news services only. Editorial purposes only. No video emulation.
Short Track skaters practice in the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday February 4, 2014. See PA story OLYMPICS Short Track. Photo credit should read: David Davies/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: For news services only. Editorial purposes only. No video emulation.
A Russian security forces K-9 officer patrols with his dog near the finish area of the Alpine ski course ahead of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Gero Breloer)
Security stand beside Mascots in Rosa Khutor near the Extreme park, Sochi, Russia. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday February 3, 2014. See PA story OLYMPICS Sochi. Photo credit should read: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: For news services only. Editorial purposes only. No video emulation.
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at the opening of the 126th session of the International Olympic Committee at the Zimny Theatre ahead of the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/David Goldman, Pool)
Great Britain's Jamie Nicholls in the Athletes Village. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday February 4, 2014. See PA story OLYMPICS Sochi. Photo credit should read: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: For news services only. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial purposes only. No video emulation.
Pictured is a general view of the Athletes village near Rosa Khutor. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday February 4, 2014. See PA story OLYMPICS Sochi. Photo credit should read: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: For news services only. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial purposes only. No video emulation.
Olga Shkhumova of the Ukraine completes a training run for the women's luge singles at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
Erin Hamlin of the United States completes a training run for the women's luge singles at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
A military helicopter hovers over the mountain cluster as a passenger jet passes by prior to the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. With militant groups threatening to attack during the next few weeks, security and the safety of competitors and visitors to the coastal area and in the nearby mountains that will host the events has become both heightened and inescapable. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
Rosa village is seen from a gondola prior to the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Stray dogs around the Olympic Park in Sochi, Russia. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday February 4, 2014. See PA story OLYMPICS Sochi. Photo credit should read: David Davies/PA Wire
Two PETA Supporters protest against the wearing of fur at the Olympic Park in Sochi, Russia. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday February 4, 2014. See PA story OLYMPICS Sochi . Photo credit should read: David Davies/PA Wire
A person scraping the slopes falls over on the slopestyle course at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park ahead of the start of 2014 Winter Games in Sochi. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday February 3, 2014. See PA story OLYMPICS Sochi. Photo credit should read: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: For news services only. Editorial purposes only. No video emulation.
In this photo taken Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014, two female toilets sit side-by-side at the security screening facility outside the Main Press Center at the 2014 Winter Olympics, in Sochi, Russia. Side-by-side toilets in a single bathroom caused a social media sensation last month when they were discovered at the biathlon course of the Sochi Olympics, swiftly becoming a national joke in Russia. The Sochi organizing committee initially denied knowledge of the second twin toilet, and it has not been able to say whether the loo-loo was built by design or resulted from an error during the plumbing process. (AP Photo)
Independent Olympic Participant Shiva Keshavan has a training run at the Sliding Centre Sanki during the Winter Olympics in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday February 4, 2014. See PA story OLYMPICS Luge. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire
USA's Christopher Mazdzer has a training run at the Sliding Centre Sanki, during the Winter Olympics in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday February 4, 2014. See PA story OLYMPICS Luge. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: For news services only. Editorial purposes only. No video emulation.
An unknown athlete makes a jump during the ski slopestyle training at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park ahead of the start of 2014 Winter Games in Sochi. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday February 3, 2014. See PA story OLYMPICS Freestyle Woods. Photo credit should read: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: For news services only. Editorial purposes only. No video emulation.
Great Britains James Woods during the ski slopestyle training at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park ahead of the start of 2014 Winter Games in Sochi. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday February 3, 2014. See PA story OLYMPICS Freestyle Woods. Photo credit should read: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: For news services only. Editorial purposes only. No video emulation.
Norway's Torstein Horgmo is stretchered off the mountain after injuring him self in the Snowboard practice. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday February 3, 2014. See PA story OLYMPIC Snowboarding. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: For news services only. Editorial purposes only. No video emulation.
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 04: Dominic Harrington, Ben Kilner and Billy Morgan of the Great Britain Snowboard Team pose for a portrait with Rebekah Wilson and Paula Walker of the Great Britain Bobsleigh team on the Olympic rings at the Athletes Village in the Rosa Khutor mountain village cluster prior to the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics on February 3, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 04: Shelly Gotlieb, Stefi Luxton, Christy Prior and Rebecca Torr of New Zealand pose for a picture with the Olympic Rings at Athletes Village ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics on February 4, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 04: Rebecca Torr of New Zealand pose for a picture with the Olympic Rings at Athletes Village ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics on February 4, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 04: (L-R) Caroline Ouellette and Natalie Spooner of the Canada Women's ice hockey team leave a training session ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Olympic Park on February 4, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 04: Security stand outside Adler Arena Skating Center ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the Olympic Park on February 4, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 04: A general view of the interior of an athlete's apartment ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the Athletes Olympic Village on February 4, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 04: Members of the Canada Women's ice hockey team team leave a training session ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Olympic Park on February 4, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 04: Members of the Canada Women's ice hockey team team leave a training session ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Olympic Park on February 4, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 04: Security stand near a vehicle checkpoint ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the Olympic Park on February 4, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 04: Workers clean a pool ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the Athletes Olympic Village on February 4, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 04: A general view of the Netherlands team lodgings and bikes ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the Athletes Olympic Village on February 4, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 04: Dutch Olympic personnel ride a bicycle ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the Athletes Olympic Village on February 4, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 04: The athlete's Olympic Village sits on a plateau below the snow capped peaks as the women's alpine ski course desends the mountain in the foreground on the Rosa Khutor ski mountain ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics on February 4, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 04: The women's alpine ski course decends the mountain as the athlete's Olympic Village sits in the background on the Rosa Khutor ski mountain ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics on February 4, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 04: Volunteers pose for photos infront of the Olympic Rings ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the Olympic Park on February 4, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 04: A Cross Country skiers trains ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the Laura Cross-Country Ski and Biathlon Center on February 4, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) *** BESTPIX ***
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 04: Ski Jumper Sara Takanashi conference at Gorki Press Center ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic on February 4, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 04: An athlete trains during Snowboard Slopestyle practice at the Extreme Park at Rosa Khutor Mountain ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics on February 4, 2014 in Sochi, Russia (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images) *** BESTPIX ***
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 04: A member of the Poland Cross-Country team passes the Olympic rings during training ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the Laura Cross-Country Ski and Biathlon Center on February 4, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 04: Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak signs the Wall of Truce inside the Coastal Cluster athletes' village ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the Athletes Olympic Village on February 4, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 04: International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach poses with members of the IOC in front of the Olympic rings in the Coastal Cluster athletes' village ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the Athletes Olympic Village on February 4, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)
BERLIN, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 04: Journalists and other members of Reporters Without Borders protest against restrictions on freedom of the press in Russia outside the Russian embassy next to an ice sculpture featuring a poster with a burning newspaper shaped like an Olympic torch and the words 'A Free Press - the Most Difficult Discipline In Sochi' on February 4, 2014 in Berlin, Germany. The demonstration is taking place three days ahead of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. (Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 04: A general view of the Polar Bear mascot statue ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the Athletes Olympic Village on February 4, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 04: Kaetlyn Osmond of Canada practices during a figure skating training session ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the Iceberg Skating Palace on February 4, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) *** BESTPIX ***
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 04: A general view over Fisht Olympic Stadium in the early morning ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the Olympic Park on February 4, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 04: A general view over the Olympic Park in the early morning ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics on February 4, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 04: A general view over the Olympic Park in the early morning ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics on February 4, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 04: A general view over the Olympic Park in the early morning ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics on February 4, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 04: A general view over the Olympic Park in the early morning ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics on February 4, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 04: A general view over the Olympic Park in the early morning ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics on February 4, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 04: A general view over the Olympic Park in the early morning ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics on February 4, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 04: A general view over the Olympic Park in the early morning ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics on February 4, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 03: The Olympic Rings are illuminated at Sochi International Airport ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics on February 3, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 03: Dimitry Reiherd of Kazakhstan trains during moguls practice at the Extreme Park at Rosa Khutor Mountain ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics on February 3, 2014 in Sochi, Russia (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images) *** BESTPIX ***
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 03: The Olympic Cauldron and Bolshoy Ice Dome are seen ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the Olympic Park on February 3, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 03: The Olympic Cauldron is seen ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the Olympic Park on February 3, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 03: The Olympic Cauldron is seen ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the Olympic Park on February 3, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 03: The Olympic Cauldron is seen ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the Olympic Park on February 3, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 02: The Bolshoy Ice Dome is seen ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the Olympic Park on February 2, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 02: The sun sets behind the Bolshoy Ice Dome ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the Olympic Park on February 2, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 02: The Iceberg Skating Palace is seen ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Olympic Park on February 2, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 02: The Iceberg Skating Palace is seen ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Olympic Park on February 2, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

Here in Sochi, there is plenty on the Russian President Vladimir Putin’s to-do list as he bustles about town, preparing for the opening of his Olympic Games; stopping off here to give a pep talk to the nation’s athletes, stopping off there to greet another world leader.

The first events begin on Thursday morning. High in the mountains above Sochi, snowboarders will take to the slopes of Rosa Khutor, while down on the shores of the Black Sea the final touches are being added to Friday night’s opening ceremony.

“Russia,” declared Putin, “is ready to host the Games.”

Just a few miles away, news of the President’s declaration was received with guffaws. On the edge of the Coastal Cluster, where the shiny stadia hosting the indoor events glinted in the afternoon sun, blocks of apartments have been constructed to house the world’s media. They are not ready.

“It is premature to call it a failure,” insisted a harassed IOC spokesperson, although he conceded there were “issues”.

Russian readiness was called into regular question throughout Tuesday and Wednesday – and in language that few of the irate journalists could print in their own publications – as they were billeted in unfinished rooms.

One Briton was shown to his in the small hours of this morning, only to find workmen still putting the final touches to it. A Canadian was told not to wash his face because the water “contains something very dangerous”. Others’ rooms lacked running water entirely. Or lightbulbs. Door knobs and fridge doors came off in startled hands.

“In principle,” insisted one official, “all the work is done.” He added: “There are some elements working from a subtext that something is wrong, something is bad, there’s a reason for this, there’s a cunning plan.”

Leaving aside Baldrick’s possible involvement, Sochi 2014 is Putin’s plan – one that began when he made the journey to Guatemala seven years ago to address the International Olympic Committee and persuade them to bring the first Olympic Games to post-Soviet Russia. Since the Second World War there has never been such a close identification of an Olympics with an individual leader.

He built it, at an estimated cost of $51bn (£31bn), and the world is coming to see the most expensive Olympic Games ever. The trouble with that, for Putin at any rate, is there are some noisy bits of the world that do not like what they are seeing.

An unknown athlete makes a jump during the ski slopestyle training at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park
An unknown athlete makes a jump during the ski slopestyle training at the Rosa Khutor Park

There are more important issues than the construction of the Olympic Park in Sochi and the courses an hour up the road – reportedly built at a cost of $8.6bn – in the mountains.

For many, this is the first sight of Putin’s Games. Those that have been here a while are not surprised by the flaws; one British contractor said he had long ago been told to take care as there were a lack of man-hole covers around Sochi and the Olympic Park. “Don’t step in puddles”, he was advised.

The venues are stunning, but around them are fraying edges – and plenty of stray dogs that have avoided heavy-handed attempts to cull them. Today, when a security guard – and there are plenty of them too – raised the barrier into our apartment block, a dog took up the invitation and trotted through. The guard made as if to give chase, but instead shrugged and decided to maintain his decorum.

Around the venues and hotels, trees have been hastily planted and secured with ropes to keep them upright. At the airport a team of Coca-Cola cheerleaders applauded arrivals, while outside workmen hurriedly pasted up Sochi 2014 posters.

In the mountains, lorries are ferrying snow from storage to the slopes. Last minute preparations, though, do not mark this out as an unusual Olympics. This is not as slap-dash as the Athens Games of 2004, and, anyhow, it is what the venues look like and what happens within them for which these Games will be remembered. At least that is what Putin hopes.

Russian athletes poured off flights from Moscow, clapping, smiling, filming themselves next to billboards. Four years ago Russia endured their worst ever Winter Games. Huge sums have been spent in putting that right on the field of play, and where there is a shortage of talent, Russian Olympic officials have taken a leaf out of Roman Abramovich’s book and gone out and bought it. Ahn Hyun-soo, a five time short-track skating world champion, was lured from South Korea and granted Russian citizenship in 2011. He is now called Viktor.

“We are all counting on you,” Putin told Team Russia as he watched the country’s flag raised over the Olympic Park.

As in London, a few home golds and everything can quickly seem right with the Olympic world, even at such great expense. But regardless of what the IOC might wish for, politics is part of all this. Today Putin will meet with China’s president Xi Jinping as well as premiers from Holland, Japan and Turkey. 

Today, one of the two high-profile Russian environmentalists who have spoken out against the Games was sentenced to five days in detention for “resisting legitimate police orders”. Igor Kharchenko joins fellow activist Yevgeny Vitishko, who was given 15 days for swearing in public.

Today came the first hint that there may be some athletes who may yet – once their competition is done – be prepared to speak out against Russia’s law against “gay propaganda”, signed off by Putin last July.

Ashley Wagner, a US skater, joked about how similar the colours around the Games are to the rainbow flag. “It doesn’t really matter where I am. It’s still my opinion,” said Wagner. “I believe in equality for all.”

Rule 50 of the Olympic charter forbids athletes from making political statements during Games times. The IOC suggested nobody would be barred from speaking out during press conferences but podium protests would not be permitted. The organising committee hold a stronger line: no politics inside the Park.

If these Games are like most others, the politics will melt away once they actually begin.

As the Olympic torch arrived in town, the chatter centred around who will light the Olympic cauldron. The gold medal-winning gymnast Alina Kabaeva has been widely tipped. That’s the same Kabaeva rumoured in these parts to be Putin’s new partner. Everything, it seems, comes back to Putin.

Further reading

Norway’s Health Minister Bent Høie to take husband to Paralympics

Jenna McCorkell in the swing to net success

Aimee Fuller blown away by unique course despite ongoing safety issues

Flo Bell ready to hit the slopes

Lyne heads five-strong Ireland team

Ulster pair going for glory at the Winter Olympics 

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