Putin Denies Widespread Corruption At Sochi Games, Tabs Construction Costs At $6.5B
Russia President Vladimir Putin yesterday denied that any "large-scale corruption surrounded the Sochi Winter Olympics and challenged those with allegations of misconduct to come forward with proof," according to Thomas Grove of REUTERS. Putin: "We don't see any large-scale instances of corruption during our preparations ... in Sochi. If anyone has any information about corruption in Sochi, please hand it over, we will be glad and grateful" (REUTERS, 1/19). Meanwhile, in L.A., Sergei Loiko notes Putin "put the final figure for construction costs associated with the Olympics" at $6.5B, a "far cry" from the $50B estimated by Kremlin critics and some Russian officials. However, Putin acknowledged that his sum "might be on the low side." He added, "If we take into account the expenses associated with the development of relevant infrastructure, the sum may be larger, but those expenses are not directly related to the Olympic Games" (L.A. TIMES, 1/20).
ALLAYING CONCERNS: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Alexander Kolyandr noted Putin "offered assurances that gays would be welcome" in Russia during the Olympics. He said, "People have different sexual orientation, and we welcome all the guests and the athletes." However, he "criticized what he called attempts to politicize the Olympics." Putin: "The Olympics is not a competition of politicians. It is a competition of athletes." He said mixing sports and politics was "absolutely inappropriate" (WSJ.com, 1/19).
FILLING SEATS: In L.A., David Wharton reported Putin "told volunteers they might be allowed to fill the empty seats" at the Games because organizers are reporting 30% of tickets remain unsold. Putin said, "Why should places go empty? It's better that they're filled, and occupied by people who love sport." Higher-priced tickets for 73 medal events "have yet to be sold," and this includes seats for alpine skiing and the men's hockey Bronze-Medal game (LATIMES.com, 1/18).