Sochi Olympics

The Sochi Winter Olympics and the image of modern Russia
Even by Olympic superlative standards, the Sochi games are an extraordinary event. The most expensive Olympics ever, these games are the personal project of President Vladimir Putin, bankrolled by the country’s billionaire oligarchs.
In this week’s podcast, Ben Hall, world news editor, is joined by Kathrin Hille, Moscow bureau chief and Neil Buckley, East Europe editor to discuss whether after the build up, snags and negative portrayal in western media, are we now seeing a normal winter Olympic contest?

  • The United Arab Emirates is hoping to deliver public services using drones.
  • Mitochondrial replacement was developed in the UK, but it might be lost to the US because of government procrastination.
  • Wondering what will happen now that the Swiss have backed immigration quotas? Take a look at our Q&A on the topic.
  • Gideon Rachman looks at what it means now that two German institutions have registered objections to the policies underpinning the euro. He has also mulled over whether the EU should take punitive action over the Swiss vote – prompting quite some debate.
  • Australian authorities have published a graphic novel, seemingly aimed at deterring asylum seekers.
  • The New York Times looks at the conflict faced by Palestinians who opt to take jobs in Israeli companies in the occupied West Bank.
  • Some Russians are mourning the pre-Putin, pre-Olympic Sochi of their childhoods.

 Read more

By Toby Luckhurst

  • Philip Stephens argues that the people making the strongest case for Scottish independence are the English.
  • There is open mutiny at the New York Times against the editorial page and its editor, Andrew Rosenthal.
  • Saudi Arabia is obsessed with the news, from thriving broadsheets to social media, and much of the interest lies in the uncensored press.
  • Deputy prime minister Dmitry Kozak accidentally let slip on Russian surveillance of journalists and their shower habits in his anger at the negative press response to Sochi’s unfinished accommodation.
  • Heavy snow has forced the Iranian government to ration gas in a bid to meet rising domestic need, especially in the country’s northern provinces.
  • There are fears that Norway’s sovereign wealth fund is fomenting complacency, with Norwegians taking more and more time off work.

 Read more

By Toby Luckhurst

  • The Sochi Olympics will only temporarily distract from Russia’s increasing economic problems, writes Kathrin Hille.
  • Figure skater Johnny Weir talks about the Russian obsession with skating and their attitudes towards homosexuality.
  • Journalists are arriving in Sochi for the start of the Winter Olympics to find their accommodation is still being built.
  • A New York Times interactive map series on the spread of violence in the Caucasus.
  • Egyptian actress Soheir al-Babli has called for “a man as strong as Hitler” to assert authority over the turbulent country.
  • Dr Hisham A Hellyer salutes the journalists in Egypt who are trying to hold power to account in a country that is increasingly hostile to their work.
  • Fatima Khan is determined to learn the facts behind the death of her son, Dr Abbas Khan, in a Syrian prison.
  • A UN report released on Monday details the abuses children are enduring in the ongoing conflict in Syria.
  • Vanity Fair examines the relationship between Wendi Deng, ex-wife of Rupert Murdoch, and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

 Read more

By Toby Luckhurst

  • Iran is facing a water crisis so severe that President Hassan Rouhani has identified the problem as a national security issue and contingency plans exist for water rationing in the greater Tehran area.
  • Parental pressure on Chinese women has led to the growth of a boyfriend rental industry to fool families into believing that their daughters are on the path to marriage.
  • Obama’s ambitious free trade agenda threatens to split the Democratic Party.
  • The Sochi Winter Olympics are under threat from “black widows” – wives of rebels killed by the Russian state in the volatile Caucasus region.
  • Radical protesters in Ukraine are in the minority, but play an increasingly prominent role, write Neil Buckley and Roman Olearchyk.

 Read more

By Toby Luckhurst

Thailand’s state of emergency is an attempt to control a country transitioning from feudal monarchy to representative democracy, writes Michael Peel.

• The Washington Post comments on a report revealing that economic mobility in the US has stagnated for 50 years, leaving those growing up poor no more likely to climb the ladder than their grandparents were.

Ukraine’s increasingly heated clashes between pro-EU activists and government forces are forging new warriors.

• The Sochi Winter Olympics have become a Putin vanity project costing at least $51bn, writes the New York Times.

• Increasing wages, a stronger currency and a dearth of workers are driving up production costs in China, leading to increasing consumer prices around the globe.

 Read more

Turkey’s finance minister warns of negative implications for the country’s economy as a corruption scandal engulfs Ankara’s political elite, triggering a slide in the lira.
♦ The uncommon success of the “Common Man” party has upended Indian politics.
♦ Take a look at these photographs showing construction at the Panama Canal.
♦ The increasing cost and shortage of housing has led people to make more and more of less and less space: CNN takes a look at “micro-homes”.
♦ Businessweek looks at the money wasted on the Sochi OlympicsRead more

Neil Buckley

The manoeuvre was vintage Putin. After answering journalists’ questions for four hours and five minutes in an annual press conference – which had already included a question about Mikhail Khodorkovsky – the Russian president chose to slip the main news into a casual comment to a group of journalists afterwards. Russia’s most famous political prisoner, and arguably one of the most famous in the world, will be pardoned after ten years in jail “in the shortest time”.

 Read more