Sochi First, Education Second

2082.jpgThe Sochi Olympics is, it would seem, never far from controversy.  The recent set of scandalizing posters advertising housing in the Olympic complex might have lead one to imagine that Putin et al are using Berlin 1936 as the blue print for their own Olympic adventure.  Pictures of looming Aryans enjoying the snow-capped vistas provoked outrage as critics saw an echo of the imagery found in the work of Nazi-aestheticist Leni Riefenstahl.  Aside from its homage to the Master Race, Window On Eurasia’s Paul Goble reveals another major gripe to be held with the preparation for the Games:

For what Moscow plans to spend on the 2014 Sochi Olympics, activists say, the central government could open and support the operations of kindergartens for all preschoolers in Russia, the latest indication of the way in which in straightened economic times, Russians are registering their objections to government policies.   

And because all Russians are paying the price for these games just asthey are paying for the continuing war in the North Caucasus, suchobjections are likely to increase the number of opponents to thesepolicies, even if as seems likely the powers that be in Moscow will doeverything they can to ignore or downplay them.But even if Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev are able to continue topursue such policies, anger about spending on one set of projects,especially if it is shown to be taking money out of the mouths ofchildren and others who need it, will have an impact on the rhetoric ofRussian politics especially during the upcoming parliamentary campaign.

A major reason why the movement appears to be gaining support is that tough economic times and Moscow’s decision to solve its budgetary problems largely by cutting services to the poorer elements of the society is infuriating an increasing number of people and leading them to question the gigantist Soviet-style projects Vladimir Putin in particular appears to favor.

That the Games is on some level a vanity project, apt for the expression of totalitarian instincts is no surprise, and is perhaps most famously embodied by the snow leopard mascot debacle. But if the World Hockey Championships in 2016 and the Football World Cup in 2018 prompt the same channelling of funds, Russia may well be nurturing a generation of illiterate athletes.