Opportunity for Graft, Corruption Among Top Responses of Russians to Survey on Country Hosting the Sochi Winter Games

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By Vittorio Hernandez | February 6, 2014 10:31 AM EST


A torchbearer holds up the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games torch atop a boat during the torch relay in Lake Baikal in this handout from the Organizing Committee Sochi 2014 released on November 23, 2013. REUTERS/Organizing Committee Sochi 2014/Handout via Reuters

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Global attention is on Sochi this week as the mid-size Russian city hosts the Winter Olympic Games which officially opens on Friday, Feb 7, with no less than new Chinese President Xi Jinping attending the event.

The international sporting event will surely be controversial with the games preceded by global protest over the country's anti-gay law despite assurance from Russian President Vladimir Putin that it would not apply to the foreign athletes.

BBC pointed out that actually there is only one road that leads to Sochi, which is a narrow, winding road that hugs the coast. Among the landmark of the road is a big concrete checkpoint in the hamlet of Magri or about 100 kilometres before the city centre.

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The event is seen as a big publicity bash for Sochi which was popular summer resort with a population of 350,000, and the birthplace of tennis sensation Maria Sharapova. She is hoping that the winter games would place Sochi on the world map.

Russians, however, are divided on the country's hosting of the winter games, according to a survey made by the independent Levada Center.

Ria Novosti reported that 53 per cent of the survey respondents believe it is right for Russia to host the international event, while 36 per cent were against it.

However, more telling is the opinion by 38 per cent that Russian officials are pushing for hosting the Olympics, including the summer games, because it is an opportunity for graft.

About $50 million has been spent for the construction of the sports facilities and hotels, but just days before the Friday opening, there are a growing number of reports of unfinished facilities and lack of basic necessities ranging from water to Wifi.

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Another 47 per cent of the respondents pointed to the $50 million bill on hosting the athletic meet as evidence of corruption somewhere along the way.

About 34 per cent blamed the alleged poor quality of the Olympic facilities to greed and dishonesty by the contractors

Nevertheless, despite their misgivings, 69 per cent plan to watch some broadcast of the event such as ice skating, biathlon and hockey, but 65 per cent said they would watch to witness Russian athletes triumph.

Despite the 11th place finish of Russia in the 2010 Winter Olympics hosted by Vancouver, Canada, 57 per cent of the respondents expect their country to be in the top three overall medal count for the Sochi Games.

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A torchbearer holds up the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games torch atop a boat during the torch relay in Lake Baikal in this handout from the Organizing Committee Sochi 2014 released on November 23, 2013. REUTERS/Organizing Committee Sochi 2014/Handout via Reuters
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