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.
Lee Myung-bak’s approval ratings remain painfully low as he prepares to step down as South Korean president next month. But he might hope for a belated popularity boost in 2018 when his country hosts the Winter Olympics – one of a series of major international events that South Korea won during his term.
The past week has given an early taste of the festival that awaits in five years’ time, as the South Korean ski resort of Pyeongchang hosted the Special Olympics World Games.