As costs for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia spiral to in excess of $50 billion dollars, Putin’s Games goes behind the scenes to investigate why the first Winter Games to be held in a sub-tropical resort have become the most expensive Olympics ever. With extraordinary access to top government officials and wealthy Russian businessmen, the documentary follows the preparations from the early stages, exposing alleged corruption, the sky-rocketing budget and the big winners and losers. Putin’s Games questions the entire Sochi nomination, while revealing the environmental and human costs of constructing a faux “winter” for the upcoming Winter Games. “You’d have to spend a long time searching the map of this huge country to find someplace with no snow,” says Boris Nemtsov, a member of the Russian Opposition Coordination Council. “Putin found it.”
The city of Sochi on “Russia’s Riviera” is a traditional summer resort for Russia’s rich and beautiful. The Mayor of Sochi, Anatoly Pakhomov, acts as tour guide as he shows off the progress being made in preparation for the Games. “We are building a great sports festival for the entire world,” he says.
But some see the decision by the International Olympics Committee to choose Sochi as host of the 2014 Winter Olympics as bizarre. When the IOC made its decision, there was not one single venue fit for Olympic purposes of any kind in Sochi. Garry Kasparov, former World Chess Champion and political activist says, “Aside from Putin’s particular ability to lobby for it in one-on-one talks, I think the IOC was taken in by the belief that any problem can be solved with enough money.”
“Vladimir Putin personally met with almost all the IOC representatives,” says Leonid Tyagachev, former President of the Russian Olympic Committee and a Russian Senator. “The amounts of euros and dollars tossed around were practically unlimited.”
As we watch the Olympic site take shape, Putin’s Games reveals the stories of corruption and bribery behind the Games. Valery Morozov, a well-known Russian contractor describes how he fled to the UK after bribes were demanded in exchange for a lucrative construction project in Sochi. Elena Panifilova, Executive Director of Transparency International Russia summarizes the dilemma,” You can be an accomplice or a victim. The choice is yours.”
Some residents of Sochi complain that the Games have ruined their resort town. The massive construction projects have left the area scarred with giant landfills, polluted rivers and the destruction of nature reserves. Over 200 Olympic facilities will eventually be built, not including the infrastructure needed to support it.
“When we finish the cosmetic work, the pavement and flowers, it will be great, says Sochi Mayor, Anatoly Pakhomov. He is undeterred by the critics. “Our city is a park. It’s meant for leisure not corruption. So all this talk about corruption hurts me.”
Putin’s Games is directed by Alexander Gentelev.
During the production of Putin’s Games, the producers were offered 600,000 euros not to show the film anywhere, but they refused. Recently, Russian authorities tried to cancel its only scheduled screening in Russia, but the largest documentary festival in Moscow went ahead with the premiere and had a standing room only crowd.