- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 6, 2014


Dead dogs, broken toilets, buildings in ruins….

These are usually what you find in cities after they host the Olympics.

The Winter Olympics open Thursday in Sochi, Russia, amidst tales of construction nightmares, toxic sludge, and stray dogs hiding in fear for their lives in the wake of the city’s campaign to seek and exterminate the animals.

Has anyone seen any homeless yet in Sochi? Just asking.

I come not to bury Sochi, but to praise it. Sochi may be the greatest host city ever for the games, a place that embodies the Olympic ideals – graft, corruption and scandal. They should hold the Winter Olympics every four years in Sochi.

Then again, four years from now, Sochi may be Russia’s economic Chernobyl.

The Olympics often leave a trail of broken cities — and sometimes countries — in its path. The economic promises made by Russian officials to the International Olympic Committee were promises made on the backs of the children of children who haven’t even been born yet.

Having the IOC as a partner is like doing business with Tony Soprano. You bet on dreams and they turn into nightmares. You’ve got 10 grand on the Giants and then suddenly you’re in debt and doing things you couldn’t have possibly imagined.

I mean, the IOC managed to corrupt the Mormons, for crying out loud. Salt Lake City organizers were charged with bribery and fraud in the 2002 Winter Games bid. They were later acquitted, but 10 IOC members were expelled as a result.

The irony is – and what they don’t tell you when they are organizing committees and selling the populace on the glory of the Games – is that hosting the Olympics picks the pockets of the people who are promised streets of gold.

In Salt Lake City, the mayor went on local television every night to plead with people to come into town to eat at local restaurants – some of which had spent money in anticipation of the business rewards from hosting the Olympics – because those restaurants were empty, and losing money.

In Sydney, host of the 2000 Summer Olympics, businesses went bankrupt after expanding, looking forward to reaping the rewards predicted by Olympic organizers, only to find that more people typically leave a city during the game than come there. The Olympic Stadium turned out to be a very big flower pot for years after the Games were gone.

We know what happened to Greece, which spent $11 billion to host the 2004 Summer Games and wound up in economic ruin. And Washington wants to host the Summer Olympics? Folly.

For Russia, this has the makings of being an Olympic dry hole with long-lasting global implications.

The general school of thought is that Afghanistan helped bleed the Soviet Union dry and drove the economic crisis that led to breakup of the Cold War power. But hosting the 1980 Summer Olympics on Moscow may have contributed as well.

According to the Moscow Times, the costs of those 1980 Games – boycotted by the United States and 60 other countries – was 2 billion rubles, which was a little more than $1 billion. In 1984, Los Angeles hosted the Olympics for $75 million.

Soviet rulers feared the damage hosting the games would leave behind. In 1975, Leonid Brezhnev wrote a letter to his successor, Konstantin Chernenko, about the “enormous amount of money” to be spent hosting the Olympics, the Times reported.

“Besides the enormous cost, there may be all sorts of scandals that could disgrace the Soviet Union. Maybe we should reconsider this issue and refuse to hold the Olympics,” Brezhnev wrote to Chernenko, according to the Times report. The Olympics did help put the Soviet economy into a tailspin.

Scandals? Disgrace? That’s what the Olympics are built on.

The big rainmaker who helped Sochi secure the games is reportedly a Russian crime boss who is one of the biggest heroin dealers in the world, according to ABC News.

Gafur Rakhimov, who U.S. authorities describe as a top organized crime boss and heroin kingpin currently under criminal indictment in Uzbekistan, was a key figure in helping Sochi win the bid, ABC News reported. After Sochi was named the winning city in 2007, the head of the Russian Olympic Committee publicly thanked Rakhimov for his “singled minded work” in getting the votes of some Asian countries, “without which… it would have been hard for Sochi to count on the victory,” ABC New reported.

Rakhimov was barred from entering Australia for the 2000 Sydney Olympics, ABC News reported.

So here we are, 34 years after the last Soviet Olympics helped bring down the country, and the Russians are hosting games that started with a $12 billion budget that has reportedly risen to $51 billion. The Beijing Summer Olympics – a far bigger and costlier event to host – cost $43 billion.

Stray dogs? If I was a dog with a home, I’d be plenty worried. Dog food may be a hot commodity in Sochi in the future.

• Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,” noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 radio and espn980.com

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