As Britain continues to enjoy the publicity bump from its 2012 Summer Olympics, Russia appears to be facing serious obstacles in its delivery of a successful Winter Olympics, now less than one year away. President Vladimir Putin has put his personal reputation behind staging the upcoming Games in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, where he owns a vacation home. Unfortunately, challenges are mounting on all fronts.
This issue is not a reluctance to spend money. On the contrary, these Games will be the most expensive ever staged, summer or winter. Current estimates have Russia spending almost $50 billion. By comparison, the 2008 Beijing Games cost approximately $40 billion. Britain got away with hosting its "austerity Games" in London for a mere $12 billion. The most expensive Winter Games prior to Sochi were in Nagano, Japan, in 1998, which cost about $17 billion.
The problems lie elsewhere, although Putin demanded a few days ago that a senior member of the Russian Olympic Committee be fired, apparently because of the cost overruns. To begin with, there is the weather. Surprisingly, it doesn't actually get that cold in Sochi during the winter. With an average temperature of about 50 degrees Fahrenheit during the colder months, Sochi will eventually be connected to nearby ski resorts by high-speed trains. However, organizers are still planning to deploy more than 400 snow-making machines to coat surfaces with the precipitation essential for most of the sports on display.