Next Olympic Host Becomes Pawn for Putin's Ambitions

It will cost more than $50 billion to transform the "once sleepy" Black Sea resort of Sochi into the "sleek host" of the 2014 Winter Olympics, writes David M. Herszenhorn. The most expensive games ever is a pet project of President Vladimir V. Putin.

Herszenhorn examines what 70,000 construction workers toiling 24 hours a day are aiming to complete by this time next year.

"Dozens of new transit hubs, including hulking rail stations and glittering glass-and-steel airline terminals, are at various stages of completion. Laborers are laying hundreds of miles of roadways, renovating thousands of hotel rooms and building thousands more. Then there are the 13 official sites, split between a coastal complex and a mountain complex. They include a 40,000-seat stadium, two hockey arenas, two skating arenas and an “Ice Cube” for curling, as well as sites for skiing, snowboarding, a biathlon and other outdoor events."

The immense construction effort is being framed as an opportunity for regional development by the President's personal spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, who "called the scope of the project comparable to the 'reconstruction of cities and towns after World War II.'”

"Parts of Sochi look less like a postwar reconstruction zone and more like the target of a sustained assault by rampaging aliens," observes Herszenhorn. "In some places, cavernous pits open deep into the ground. In others, unfinished elevated train tracks halt in midair. Scaffolding abounds. Some neighborhoods are filled with so much latticed steelwork they make the city of 350,000 look like a child’s outsized Erector Set."

Full Story: Putin’s Vision of Olympic Glory Meets a More Earthbound Reality in Sochi

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