Sochi 2014: Putin’s Costly, Controversial Winter Olympics

Sports and politics at the Winter Olympics in Sochi. We’ll talk with top Olympians — Alpine skier Mikaela Shiffrin and figure skater Jason Brown — on the games in Russia.

This Oct. 24, 2013 file photo shows the illuminated Olympic Bolshoy stadium, in the background, and Iceberg stadium, the location for figure skating and short track speed skating events during the 2014 Olympic Games, in the Olympic park in the coastal cluster in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia. (AP)

This Oct. 24, 2013 file photo shows the illuminated Olympic Bolshoy stadium, in the background, and Iceberg stadium, the location for figure skating and short track speed skating events during the 2014 Olympic Games, in the Olympic park in the coastal cluster in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia. (AP)

Russia’s Vladimir Putin loves Sochi.  Next month the whole world will get an eyeful.  The summer resort on the Black Sea hosting the Winter Olympic Games.  The longtime Communist elite retreat, hosting history’s most expensive Olympics.  The storied idealism of the games up against the harsh politics of Russia today on gay rights, dissent, and more.  We’ll talk this hour with two hot young American Olympic stars:  skater Jason Brown and skier Mikaela Shiffrin.  And we’ll take on the hard issues.  This hour On Point:  sports and politics at the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

— Tom Ashbrook


Angela Stent, professor and director of the Center for Eurasian, Russia and East European Studies program at Georgetown University. Senior fellow at the Brookings Insitution. Author of “The Limits of Partnership: US – Russian Relations in the Twenty-First Century” and “Repairing US-Russian Relations: A Long Road Ahead.” (@AngelaStent)

Mikaela Shiffrin, Olympic Alpine skier, member of the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team. (@MikaelaShiffrin)

Jason Brown, figure skater, member of the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team. (@jasonbskates)

John Cherwa, Tribune Newspapers Olympic bureau chief, deputy sports editor at The Los Angeles Times. (@jcherwa)

From Tom’s Reading List

Globe and Mail: In Sochi, anger and controversy of Olympic proportions — “When this southern Russian city was awarded the 2014 Winter Olympics seven years ago, most of the country celebrated, feeling a burst of national pride. But Yulia Saltikova quietly cursed the television set. Life in her native city, she felt, was about to go from difficult to worse. That premonition has proved sadly correct. Winning the Olympics has brought a carnival of construction to this palm-tree-lined resort on the Black Sea, to prepare for the most expensive Games ever, slated to cost at least $50-billion (U.S.).”

Bloomberg Businessweek: Putin ski run fails to ease Sochi fears — “Security experts are pretty confident that Putin’s police will manage to seal off the mountain-fringed Black Sea resort town of 343,000, shielding the bobsled runs, ski-jump courses, the athletes’ village and the high-end hotels. Putin will have a more difficult time to make his Jan. 3 hit-the-slopes message carry far beyond Sochi. It didn’t get through to whoever was responsible for the six bullet-riddled bodies found in abandoned cars last week. The incident less than an hour’s flight from next month’s Olympic venue continued a wave of violence.”

USA Today: Olympic charter places athletes in tough spot for Sochi — “As controversy has overshadowed the Sochi Games and gay rights groups have called on the IOC to take action, IOC president Jacques Rogge has pointed out that the IOC is a sports organization, not a government or a political body. ‘One should not forget that the International Olympic Committee cannot be expected to have influence over the sovereign affairs of a country,’ Rogge said. Tuesday a new president will be elected, one who will inherit an issue not expected to fade. So how to reconcile this? One of the IOC’s roles is: ‘To act against any form of discrimination affecting the Olympic movement.'”

Watch U.S. Figure Skater Jason Brown’s Routine At the 2014 U.S. Figure Skate Championship

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