Putin’s Games And Putin’s Russia

As the world watches Sochi, Russia and Vladimir Putin, we’ll look at the Olympic Games and their host.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, declares the 2014 Winter Olympics open as United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, right, looks on during the opening ceremony, Friday, Feb. 7, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, declares the 2014 Winter Olympics open as United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, right, looks on during the opening ceremony, Friday, Feb. 7, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP)

If you spend $50 billion and gather the world’s top winter athletes on a snowy mountainside, you’re going to get attention.  Russia’s got it right now – for better and worse – in Sochi.  For better – well, the vistas are beautiful, it hasn’t blown up, and the athletes are great.  The skates and skis and snowboards are, for most, irresistible.  For worse – Russia can come across as the angry, iron-fisted private preserve of President Vladimir Putin, pumped up on oil and gas money and ready to smack down anybody who complains.  This hour On Point:  the Sochi Olympics, and Putin’s Russia.

— Tom Ashbrook


John Cherwa, deputy sports editor at the Los Angeles Times. (@jcherwa)

Gregory Feifer, Europe editor at the Global Post. Author of “Russians: The People Behind The Power.” Also author of “The Great Gamble.” (@gfeifer)

Julia Ioffe, senior editor at The New Republic. Former Moscow correspondent for Foreign Policy and The New Yorker. (@juliaioffe)

From Tom’s Reading List

Los Angeles Times: Sochi Olympic organizers prepare for a rainy — and sunny — day –“The 2014 Sochi Games will take place 1,000 miles south of Moscow, at a Black Sea resort that qualifies as one of only a few Russian cities with a subtropical climate. If that seems less than hibernal, the organizers insist they can stage a successful competition no matter what kind of weather there is over the next month.”

New York Times: A Triumph for Putin, if Not for the Rest of a Sagging Russia –“Now, as the first events begin, the Games have for Mr. Putin and his allies become a self-evident triumph of Russia’s will. The avalanche of criticism that has already fallen, from minor complaints about ill-prepared hotels and stray dogs to grave concerns about the costs, security and human rights, is being brushed away like snowflakes from a winter coat.”

The New Republic: Russians Think We’re Engaging in Olympic Schadenfreude. They’re Right. — “There’s a fine line between fair criticism and schadenfreude, and the Western press has been largely well on the side of the latter. I’d also argue that there’s something chauvinistic, even Russophobic in it. The Europeans may not be ready for their Olympics, but, okay, we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and hope for the best. The Chinese prepare for theirs ruthlessly, but we don’t understand them so whatever. ”

Read An Excerpt Of “Russians” By Gregory Feifer

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