Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Thursday, January 16, 2014



The Winter Olympics in Russia are only a month away.  Guess what?  An Olympic record has already been broken.  Unfortunately, it has nothing to do with athletics.  Nope, this statistic involves spending.  Russian officials recently confirmed that the Sochi Games have become the most expensive games ever.  Estimates for the total price tag run around $50 billion.  That bests the previous record of the 2008 Beijing games by $10 billion!

Why so expensive?  It's because Putin had to start from scratch.  Five years ago, Sochi was hardly a world-class resort.  In reality, it was a couple of chair lifts and a run down skating rink.  In short, Putin had to build a resort-themed city as big as Aspen, Colorado in a couple short years.   First up was the Sochi Olympic Park.  This Disneyland-sized park stretches from the Black Sea Coast to the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains.  It houses the main 40,000 seat stadium, an Ice-Dome, three other arenas and a 3,000 seat Curling Center. 

Next up was the Krasnaya Polyana.  (Beautiful Glade).  This is where the downhill events are held.  The elevation at the top peak is 1600 meters (5,200 feet).  Three luxury gondolas called the 'Caucasus Express' will whisk you up there at 40 km/hour!  However, the real expense wasn't constructing the venues themselves, but building the road / rail access to the site.  The tiny, twisty mountain roads between the Olympic Park and the Beautiful Glade have been replaced with a 15 km tunnel.  It was so expensive to construct, Russian Esquire reported: "It would have been less expensive to line the walls with one centimeter of Beluga Caviar."

You're asking yourself: If it costs so much to reach Krasnaya Polyana, why are the Olympics being held there?  Aren't their other places in Russia with mountains and snow?  It's true: Back in 2007, when Russia barely beat out South Korea to host the games, many just assumed they would be held in Siberia or the other Arctic areas.  But Putin is thinking long term.  After the games are over, no one will go to Irkutsk to ski.  BUT...there is plenty to gain with a permanent metropolis in the turmoil prone Caucasus Region.  The Sochi Olympic Village is a mere four kilometers from the Georgian border.

Sorry, gents, Lindsay Vonn is not competing in Sochi...
All in all, we here at the DUNER BLOG salute President Putin for his Olympic over achievement.  Let's face it:  The guy had two choices: He could have stayed with the original $14 billion dollar budget and used the old infrastructure.  Then...for twelve long weeks...the world would hear about how bad the facilities are and how long it takes to get between the two main venues.  So Putin played it smart by spending a bundle of Rubles.  We say: "Vashe Zdorovie!" In fact, we are already planning our DUNER BLOG retreat to the Black Sea for a ski holiday next winter... 

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