By Vanity Fair
The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, which—at $50 billion and counting—will be the most expensive Olympic Games ever. (The Games in Vancouver, site of the previous Winter Olympics, cost only $7 billion.) They’re intended to showcase the power and order of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, but as Vanity Fair contributor Brett Forrest reports in the February issue, the Olympics are also highlighting its problems with organized crime, state corruption, and terrorist threats.
For one thing, the region and its myriad construction and infrastructure projects have become a magnet for criminal elements drawn from all over the world. When the International Olympic Committee (I.O.C.) awarded the 2014 Winter Olympics to Russia on July 4, 2007, the state of Russia began moving billions of dollars into the region. Shortly after the decision was made, Ded Khasan, an ethnic Kurd from Georgia and the long-acknowledged head of Russian organized crime, assigned one of his lieutenants to shake down construction firms that had won Olympic contracts.
Khasan’s network also took a cut from labor agreements, real-estate transactions, and goods flowing through the seaport. The only problem for Khasan was a fight-for-supremacy feud with a fellow Georgian, Tariel Oniani, known as Taro, who assumingly gunned down the lieutenant, and, it is widely alleged, Khasan himself last January. How much of Russia’s $50 billion has gone to fund Olympics-related activity and how much covers kickbacks, bribes, and shakedowns is anyone’s guess, Forrest writes. “I have never seen a budget in Sochi,” a foreigner who has worked as a senior manager for several Olympics tells Forrest.