SOCHI, Russia– After the announcement that Sochi, Russia would be the location of the 2014 Olympics, there was much speculation and anticipation. What would Russia, shrouded in a veil of secrecy and allure, provide as the host country of the Winter Olympics?
However, after the commencement of the Olympics games, it quickly became evident that Sochi was not in any state to accommodate the games, much less its own people. Despite Russia’s reported 51 billion Olympic-spending budget, the subpar infrastructure and lodging of the Games provide a glimpse into a much more harrowing issue- the persistent and devastating poverty and political unrest that saturates Russia.
For instance, an astounding 18 million Russians, or roughly 13% of the population, live below the official poverty line, having a collective income of 12.4 billion. Furthermore, the estimated cost of living in Russia is approximately $210 per month. However, the nation’s minimum wage is wholly insufficient at $155 per month. Although Putin boasts about economic advances in Russia, little effective action has mitigated the poverty of Russia’s poorest residents.
Sochi, a resort hotspot located on the Black Sea, had once been considered the go-to tourist destination in Russia. However, modern-day Sochi is a far cry from its once tranquil environment. For instance, Arnold Van Bruggen, writer of the photobook “The Sochi Project: An Atlas of War and Tourism in the Caucasus,” describes Sochi as “A coastal city without a commercial port. All goods are transported along this single, busy coastal road, which is not designed to handle the traffic. The result is daily gridlock and endless traffic jams. For the Games, all the infrastructure and facilities have to build from scratch.”
Although skyscrapers and hotels, many of which were built specifically for the Olympic Games, illuminate the skyline in sheer contrast to surrounding rural lands, Russia has yet to break free of its poverty, as evidenced by incomplete and unprepared infrastructure. While Sochi itself holds promise of reviving Russia’s economy, poverty in Sochi persists in the small towns that surround it. In these towns, many residents still live in run-down homes without access to energy or clean water.
Residents were excited when it was first announced that Russia would be awarded the Winter Olympics. They thought they would reap some benefits from the billions of dollars the government invested into the new Olympic park. But so far, they say nothing has trickled down to their impoverished village nearby.
Residents in these surrounding towns were initially optimistic about Russia having been selected as the host-country of the Winter Olympics in hopes of gaining some stimulation from Putin’s 51 billion budget for the games. However, so far, no new improvements have been obtained.
– Phoebe Pradhan
Sources: Mother Jones, Here and Now, Telegraph, Forbes