Olympic costs make Russians uneasy

More than one-third of Russians have expressed opinions against expensive sporting events.

The number of Russians who say they are proud to have their country host the 2014 Winter Olympics and the 2018 FIFA World Cup keeps falling.

Almost half the nation believes that spending on these events is inefficient, and anger about overspending has already caused Brazilians to take to the streets.

Russian authorities are pushing a major anti-corruption campaign in a bid to avert a crisis.

Specialists at the Levada Center polling organization have reported a fall in the number of Russians who are proud to have their country play host to the Olympics and the World Cup: Numbers are down toa current 61percent, against 68 percent back in June 2012.

Less than half of the respondents (43 percent) believe the events will break even, while, two years ago, this figure stood as high as 49 percent.

Only 22 percent of respondents believe that spending on the Olympics and the World Cup is effective. Sixty-five percent believe it is not, and 19 percent of those polled said they believe the money is being stolen.

The proportion of respondents who believe that Russia should invest heavily in image-making events dropped to 45 percent (down from 52 percent in April 2011), while the share of those who think Russia should not spend on these events went up to 44 percent (from 32 percent in April 2011).

According to Denis Volkov, a sociologist at the Levada Center, the anti-corruption campaign that was launched by the authorities and revealed inflated spending on the 2014 Sochi Olympics stands behind the change in the public’s attitude toward both the Winter Games and the World Cup.

“The result has not been what the authorities hoped. The campaign has been mired in scandals and firings thoroughly covered in the media. It was supposed to make spending effective, but its main result is that people don’t believe this anymore. Everyone knows about corruption in high places, but its scope in Sochi has shockedRussians,” says Volkov.

“Further, people are more concerned about their everyday worries and think about what will happen tomorrow and whether the government will be strong enough to deal with the economic challenge,”the sociologist says.

Ballooning spending on construction of the Olympic facilities has already drawn a sharp response from the authorities and prompted high-profile firings.

On February 6, 2013, President Vladimir Putin visited the construction sites in Sochi and was outraged by the delay in the commissioning of the RusSki Gorki facility, as well as the hike in the construction budget from 1.2 billion rubles ($36.5 million) to 8 billion rubles ($243.6 million).

The president subsequently states that spending on the Olympic venues must be carefully monitored. Following Putin’s visit, AkhmedBilalov, chairman of the board of the state-run company that was responsible for the construction (Northern Caucasus Resorts), was dismissed.

An investigation by the General Prosecutor’s Office revealed many instances of misspending. In April 2013, the Interior Ministry said in a report that up to 45.5 million rubles ($1.3 million) had been embezzled from the Olympic construction sites.

First published in Russian in Gazeta.ru.

All rights reserved by Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

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