28 January 2014
Russian opposition figure Aleksei Navalny has launched an English-language website that catalogues alleged corruption in the building of venues and amenities for the Sochi Winter Olympics.
The website, Sochi.fbk.info, which went public on January 27, claims that the price tags for at least 10 Olympic venues were twice as expensive as they should have been.
Mr Navalny calculates that the total cost of preparing for the Games, which begin next week, will be $50bn, which he said was five times more expensive than the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and 10 times more expensive than the 2006 Turin winter games.
The website also alleges conflicts of interest in lucrative Sochi construction deals that were handed over to oligarchs and companies with close ties to the Kremlin and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"The entire Sochi project from the very outset was conceived in the way that it would not only produce the Olympic Games but would also enrich a small circle of Putin’s close friends," Navalny told Reuters news agency in Moscow.
The colorful website presents an array of graphics, photos, and data. It provides links to a variety of other websites in a bid to demonstrate the legitimacy of its claims.
Sochi’s "Fisht" stadium under construction, October 2012 (Credit: Sochi2014.com)
The website says the Olympics media center has been constructed by the Enzhtransstroi company, co-owned by billionaire businessman Arkady Rotenberg, who is reputedly a close friend of President Putin.
It also says a key Olympic office building has been built by the Monarch construction company, co-owned by Andrei Morozov, the son of a former vice president of Olympstroi, the state company in charge of the Sochi construction.
According to the website, the Sochi theme park was constructed by a company that employs well-connected politician and businessman Roman Batalov as its vice president.
It says Batalov, 28, is the son-in-law of Aleksandr Tkachev, the governor of the Krasnodar region, where Sochi is located.
President Putin, who has said that the Olympics price tag would be $6.5bn, recently denied corruption allegations and blamed construction costs on honest miscalculations by firms and investors.
Mr Navalny, an outspoken government critic known for leading mass opposition protests, finished second in Moscow’s mayoral election last year.