Homophobic Putin sabotaged
by construction project delays
Russian President Vladimir Putin may be embarrassed at the Sochi Olympics. Serves him right. Click image to enlarge.
WITH JUST A few months left until the Opening Ceremonies at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Russian media last weekend called the main venue “a disaster.”
The games will be the most expensive in history, but even Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized “ongoing failures and delays” on his recent visit to the city of Sochi.
Gay men and women around the globe have every reason to cheer this news. The codified bigotry signed into law by Putin earlier this year has made Russia out of step with the rest of the world – to say the least.
Could it be that the homophobic country will hold the main event for 2014 Winter Olympics in a half-finished stadium – and be embarrassed in front of the world?
Who needs a boycott?
ACCORDING TO REPORTS in Russian media Oct. 12 the main arena for the opening ceremonies is plagued with problems and way behind schedule.
In their story about he problems with the stadium With 4 Months Left, Main Sochi Stadium a ‘Disaster,’ the Moscow Times reported on Saturday:
The Moscow Times report saying the stadium project is a “disaster.” Click image to enlarge.
“With less than four months before the Sochi Olympics, [the] Fisht [Stadium] … consists largely of a mammoth white frame that juts out toward the sea, standing in stark contrast to the five other finished venues that now dominate the landscape of the Imeretinskaya Valley. It is the only major Olympic facility still under construction.”
That may be a ray of hope, but it is also the main venue, the place where opening ceremony is scheduled for Feb. 7.
“They have not even started to paint the walls inside or lay floors on the concrete staircases,” said Alexander Valov, editor of local news website Blogsochi.ru.”
The report adds some insightful analysis:
“If the Sochi Games are emblematic of Russia’s mix of ambition and its struggle to reach its lofty goals, then the main Olympic stadium is perhaps the most vivid symbol of this problematic combination,” it says.
The Sochi Olympics are expected to be the most expensive in history, with a price tag of $50 billion, which includes upgrading Sochi’s infrastructure and building numerous facilities from scratch.
The Moscow Times noted that even Putin was displeased.
“[W]hile officials with the International Olympic Committee praised the state of preparations last month on its last visit to Sochi, even President Vladimir Putin noted “ongoing failures and delays” on his own recent visit to the city. He emphasized that the start date for the games could not be moved.”
Indeed, there is no flexibility.
The show must go on – even if the stadium is not finished.
The entire Sochi event, however, has been clouded with controversy since the summer enactment of anti-gay laws by the Russian parliament.
A September story in The Washington Post summarized the situation.
In Russia anti-gay law casts a shadow over Sochi’s 2014 Olympics Kathy Lally reported:
“President Vladimir Putin signed a law at the end of June prohibiting the promotion of nontraditional sexual relationships to minors. It has been interpreted as banning gay pride parades — children might see them — and preventing any discussion of homosexuality among teenagers.
“The law has made gay athletes and spectators fearful of discrimination, and even arrest, at the Olympics.”
We wrote about it at the time in Russian homophobia: don’t boycott – protest at the Games when we suggested a better way to protest. Rather than a boycott, athletes should engage in massive civil disobedience by displaying the gay Rainbow Flag at every opportunity – especially on the winners’ podium.
Then let’s see if Putin throws them in jail.
A schematic of the venue from the official site of the Sochi Olympics, with the unfinished stadium in the lower right. Click image to enlarge.
MORE DETAIL ABOUT the problems with the stadium was to be found in St. Petersburg Times on Saturday in With 4 Months Left, Main Sochi Stadium a ‘Disaster.’
“The bold vision for the 40,000-seat Fisht Olympic Stadium is meant to be commensurate to the scale of the first event it will host: the opening ceremonies of the Winter Games, set to be the country’s most dramatic statement to the world in years,” the St. Petersburg Times reported.
“The government has spared no expense in its effort to ensure an awe-inspiring experience, a testament to millions of viewers around the world about the country’s achievements during Putin’s 13 years in power.
“But the government also has sacrificed crucial planning time by failing to ensure the on-time completion of the stadium, a Moscow Times investigation reveals.”
Hoping to compete with the Chinese – who’s ‘Bird’s Nest’ stadium awed the world in 2008 – the Russians seem to be falling short.
“Started in 2009, Fisht was supposed to be finished by this summer to give ceremony planners, led by powerful Channel One television head Konstantin Ernst, ample time to rehearse,” we learn in the St. Petersburg Times.
“But the completion date has now been pushed back to the end of the year due to safety-driven alterations in the design and a desire to produce an exceptional opening show Feb. 7.”
FROM THE OFFICIAL web site of Sochi Olympics we find out some of the background about the stadium and its design.
An overhead shot of the Olympic venues taken in July, with the Fisht Stadium in lower right. Click image to enlarge.
“The Fisht Olympic Stadium is located in the Olympic Park so that the spectators have a magnificent view on both mountain peaks in the north and the sea in the south,” the site says.
“The design of the … stadium in Sochi is unique across Russia. For the first time in the construction of a large-scale structure, a translucent polycarbonate roof will be used which will give the building an appearance of snowy peaks, ensuring it sits in harmony with the landscape of the Imeretinskaya Valley and the Caucasus Mountains.”
It’s clearly an ambitious project – perhaps too ambitious.
It would be a delicious irony if homophobic Russia were embarrassed by an incomplete stadium with no roof on the opening day of the Olympics.
Mr. Putin may be a strong man and a strongman, but not even his superhuman “strength” can ensure the construction is complete.
There may be no need for a boycott after all. The world may just decide to stay away rather than risk attending in an unsafe and half-finished Fisht Stadium.
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