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Volume 6 No. 217


Two Russian tycoons will tap the "prodigious cash flows of the country's largest mining company to help complete their construction projects for next year's Winter Olympics in Sochi," whose budget has spiraled to a record $50B, according to Polina Devitt of REUTERS. Mining company Norilsk Nickel will put money into a ski resort and the Olympic village being built by its billionaire backers, Vladimir Potanin and Oleg Deripaska, "in return for stakes in the two projects." A source at Interros, the firm that manages Potanin's financial interests, said, "As a result of a number of technical operations Norilsk would make a commitment to contribute as a Sochi co-investor." President Vladimir Putin has turned to some of Russia's richest men to help give a makeover to the sub-tropical Black Sea resort of Sochi and the nearby mountains in its Krasnaya Polyana section for the 2014 Winter Games. But Potanin, architect of Russia's '90s privatizations "in which he first acquired an interest in Norilsk, and Deripaska, main shareholder in aluminum major RUSAL, had balked at the spiraling costs of the event" (REUTERS, 4/28).

A former Olympic official who fled Russia after President Vladimir Putin criticized him for delays and cost overruns before the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi "claims he has been poisoned," according to Miriam Elder of the London GUARDIAN. Former Russian Olympic Committee Deputy Head Akhmed Bilalov, fired in February, said on Saturday that doctors "had discovered elevated mercury levels in his blood." He is "receiving treatment in Germany." Bilalov: "They have found elevated levels of mercury in my body. I didn't want to announce this before, but now that the press has found out, I'm forced to confirm it." According to online news portal, which saw a copy of Bilalov's medical report, the former official "is at a clinic in Baden-Baden." Doctors "found four times the normal amount of mercury in his blood" (GUARDIAN, 4/28). R-SPORT reported Russian police said that they "would investigate the claims if Bilalov made a formal complaint." An Interior Ministry spokesperson said, "Bilalov obviously can turn to the law enforcement bodies with the relevant application. It will be looked into in the specified manner." Bilalov "has been under investigation for at least a month." In early March, prosecutors claimed that he had appropriated about $2.6M from Northern Caucasus Resorts "to charter flights to France and England, as well as a helicopter flight from a hotel to an airport in the United Arab Emirates" (R-SPORT, 4/27).

CORRUPTION AFFECT: R-SPORT also reported Putin said Thursday that any concerns over corruption afflicting the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics "will not affect the running of the Games themselves." Billions of rubles have been poured into Russia's first Winter Games since the IOC awarded the country the hosting rights in '07. Putin, who lobbied hard to secure the Games, acknowledged that "there were fears that a significant portion of the federal funds allocated could disappear" (R-SPORT, 4/25).

Russia's space agency Roscosmos Deputy Head Vitaly Davydov said that "Russian astronauts will take an unlit Olympic torch on a space walk ahead of the country's hosting of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi." Davydov said, "It will not be a copy but exactly the same as the torch at the Olympics" (BANGKOK POST, 4/28). ... Sue Campbell, the woman credited with masterminding Team GB’s record medal haul at the London Games, said Britain has failed to use the Olympics to create a "transformational change" in society. The former PE teacher, who provided the strategy behind British athletes’ spectacular performance at the Games, said that "it is not too late to create a genuine Olympics legacy -- but many opportunities have already been missed" (London INDEPENDENT, 4/28).