Winter Olympics

A year ago when the Olympic torch arrived in Sochi, many observers were warning that interest in the Russian Black Sea resort would fizzle out once the 2014 winter games were over. But that was before western sanctions and falling oil prices began weighing on the Russian economy and sending the rouble into a nosedive.

Russians no longer able to afford foreign ski holidays and chalets are now flocking to the slopes of Sochi and investing their depreciating rubles in mountain side homes built for the Olympics. For the first time Sochi has been included in the annual ranking of the world’s top twenty ski resorts by price growth for prime residences, compiled by Knight Frank, the global real estate consultancy. Read more

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. Read more

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. Read more