Sochi 2014

On Friday, February 7, many residents of Abkhazia will be able to see the glow of the opening fireworks at the Sochi Winter Olympics from their homes. But that is as close as they will get. As the winter sporting world descends on the Black Sea, Abkhazia – a self-proclaimed independent state recognised by only five countries, chief among them Russia – has not been invited to the party. 

By Timothy Ash of Standard Bank

Vladimir Putin has been acclaimed by many as the man of 2013. He outmanoeuvred the west first on Syria and then on Ukraine. He has tried to show a softer side with recent high-profile pardons, from Khodorkovsky to Pussy Riot and Greenpeace campaigners. Now momentum is building up to the Sochi Winter Olympics, which will be presented as a show case for Russia and the Putin regime.

It will be interesting to see if he remains at his peak in 2014, post-Sochi. 

Sochi 2014 will be the most expensive Olympics in history, with the cost expected to top $50bn. But despite its huge budget, the winter event faces challenges, not least from the city’s sub-tropical climate and accusations of slave labour, as Charles Clover discovers.

Coming soon: sportswear for dogs

X5, the Russian food retailer controlled by Mikhail Fridman’s Alfa Group, has won a tender for rights to market official merchandise for the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.

The prestigious deal may boost the appeal of X5’s grocery stores but probably comes too late to prevent the London-listed retailer from being overtaken by its fast growing rival Magnit in the battle for sales. 

Brics and mortarIf the 2014 Olympics in Sochi is a big pie, then Olympstroy’s piece just got a little bigger. According to a new report released by the Regional Development Ministry this week, the state corporation’s budget for designing and building the Games facilities has more than doubled from 143.6bn roubles ($4.9bn) to 304bn roubles.

Dmitry Kozak, the government official in charge of Sochi, was quick to assure reporters yesterday that the change in figures was simply due to a redistribution of resources within the federal budget. Yet the murky numbers raise further questions about the transparency of the Sochi preparations, and Russia’s other big infrastructure projects, such as the 2018 World Cup