Western Media Trashed Russia At Every Opportunity During The Olympics, Distracting From A Big Success Story

The Sochi Olympics were the great success Russia hoped for. The opening ceremonies proved a radiant display drawing on Russia’s most compelling cultural assets.  This artful look back to Russia’s past greatness proved both a reminder and challenge to its own people to reprise their historical greatness going forward. Meanwhile, its closing ceremonies reprised these themes, reminding the viewer of Russia’s continued vibrancy in the arts.

From an economic vantage point, national hosts for Olympic games always use them as an occasion for enormous infrastructure spending for economic development. One of us (Hudson) was the economist for Montreal brokerage houses back in 1976 when every French Canadian family seemed to become millionaires on the games’ cost overruns. The usual argument by governments is to hire a Keynesian economist who will say, “Spend tens of $billions and the multiplier will generate hundreds of $billions in national income. Taxes at 20% will recover all the expense, so in an economy with under-employment, whatever you spend on the Olympics will be free.” This is the kind of argument that World Bank economists use to justify infrastructure investment by underdeveloped countries, and what any Olympic host city argues to minimize the vast cost overruns that always occur. Construction contracts are about as honest as figure skating judging.

At least this argument is better than trickle-down economics. For Russia, the Sochi Olympics did for that city’s infrastructure what the Olympics did for Los Angeles, Salt Lake City and other sites. But for Russia, it was the first real Keynesian-type investment in infrastructure to start rebuilding the nation physically – in an economy where construction has not been the strong suit that it has in Western economies.

If there were any time for those hostile to Russia to provoke an intemperate move, this was it. The games were supposed to show a positive Russian face to the world, helping heal the old Cold War tensions. So, from Mr. Putin’s vantage point, the worst thing that could happen would be a distraction to remind the world of old Soviet-era repression. So of course, this was precisely what the Western press played up. To read the New York Times or Washington Post, the real sporting event was whether the police would descend on Pussy Riot’s sideshow.

Russia did itself no favors by sending Cossacks to deal with what would otherwise have been a nearly invisible Pussy Riot protest performance. If Putin’s aim was to promote a view of Russia as a modern developing country, that of the demonstrators was to identify his government as modern-day Stalinists.

In advance of the games American audiences were regaled with ‘Orange Alert’ tales of impending doom from terrorist attacks on the demonstrations staged by the regime’s opponents. But the Russian government dealt deftly to provide security for the games while seeing the Western anti-public relations ploy and did not overreact. The games were indeed about athletics, not minority rights, separatism and anti-authoritarian democracy. There was nothing like the violence seen in New York City when the city’s police descended on the peaceful Occupy Wall Street demonstration after 1:30 AM and started smashing the equipment of the demonstrators (especially their guitars and musical instruments), trashing their library and driving them out, with liberal use of pepper spray on the defenseless.

Russia’s poorly conceived Cossack intervention aside, it refrained from doing anything on the scale of what Mayor Bloomberg did to Occupy Wall Street. This contrast was not drawn by the Western media. The last thing that they would promote was the idea of Russia new role as peacebroker on the international stage. So there was no mention of how Russian pressure on Bashar al-Assad in Syria prevented an escalation of conflict there that could have rippled through the Middle East, providing fertile terrain for the expansion of the Al-Qaeda franchise in the U.S.-backed alliance. Putin’s act in saving the US from a disastrous intervention might have helped the ‘reset’ on US-Russian cooperation and security relations.

Leading up to the Sochi Olympics were reports from US media of failed infrastructure on the ground. Hotel rooms were not quite ready. The water was yellow (as usually is the case in newly built and plumbed buildings). The real story, of course, was precisely the vast infrastructure investment in building. This was a new path for Russia, where construction had languished ever since 1917 as the economy pushed industrialization more than residential or commercial building.

Yet here was a regional city that had been living under near-Third World conditions before the Olympic reconstruction began. Sochi even lacked potable water – a condition still found in many parts of Russia since the collapse of the USSR. The economic success of Sochi has been to turn it into a modern city in the making, with infrastructure that will contribute to its long-term potential to become a tourist destination.

The Olympics thus served as a catalyst to bring money and development to the Caucasus. This is, after all, the best tonic against the Islamic fundamentalist movements that thrive most in poverty. The Sochi success thus is a first step in a constructive and peaceful mode of dealing with terrorism, in contrast to the devastation that has been wrought in post-revolution Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.

Sochi represents the kind of development that should take place across all of Russia. It is much better than building up sovereign wealth funds to play in stock markets. Russia’s money and resources – above all its labor – is best employed at home, and construction has been lacking for too long. It typically accounts for 10 percent of GDP in advanced countries. (In hothouse Ireland it rose to 25% of GDP by 2007.) Where better to spend credit and money than on infrastructure to transform Russia’s economy and living standards?

What has collapsed in the past two decades is not only much of Russia’s infrastructure, but its prospective middle class. Nothing would go further toward rebuilding prosperity than a national program to transform the country’s infrastructure. Sochi has shown the way forward. That is the real story that the Western media have sidestepped.

The usual corruption charges were leveled against the Sochi Olympics, as in every such games within memory. That is what happens with big construction projects everywhere. Yet there was no reminiscing about similar events over the pasts three or four decades, or for the role in such infrastructure investment in catalyzing an economic takeoff. If Russia becomes a leading actor in the struggle for clean government in the realm of big construction, it will be nearly among the first nation to do this, and let’s hope it can be.

The other major criticism of Russia as the games approached led to many Americans not attend: Russia’s recent discriminatory laws against the LGBT community. These laws are mostly designed to pacify socially conservative elements in Russia (as right-wing as American Christian churches – well, maybe not quite as intolerant, but you get the picture). But the reality is that these laws are not being enforced in any serious way. While we hardly support these measures, the best way to deal with this issue will be real economic development of the type presented by Sochi. Development leads to tolerance.

The most serious human rights challenge in Russia is that from ethnic vigilante groups. They are the gangs taking real action against their targets as they once did in the US. In this instance the Russian government has moved aggressively to thwart this dangerous trend.

What would Dick Cheney have done if Russian NGOs sponsored separatist movements in Texas, California or New England? How would US police have reacted against armed revolutionaries seizing the armory and throwing Molotov cocktails and bombs at public buildings, killing police, painting swastikas on Jewish houses and claiming vigilante justice? If this is Obama’s “reset” with Russia, he is resetting the Cold War by setting the neocons loose in the former Soviet economies. If there is one thing that the CIA has shown its competence in, it is in setting one ethnic group against the others – Sunni vs Shiite, Kurd against Arab, Persian against them all. When other countries seek to defend a multi-ethnic secular state, the US foreign office in all cases has backed the fundamentalists for the past half-century. Let’s hope Obama moves away from these hardline elements in his State Department and more toward the type of cooperation with Russia that prevented a US invasion of Sryia.

Sochi shows that Russia can pull off world-class projects on the global stage. The games proved how Russia can transform its economy through infrastructure investment in a way that can build up a middle class while countering religious and racist fundamentalist discontent.

The US has a curious double standard when it comes to Russian leaders. The Western press applauded Boris Yeltsin for unleashing tanks on Russia’s elected parliament in 1993, and Wall Street applauded when he turned over the country’s wealth to oligarchs. Contrast this with the treatment of Putin. Although not an ideal democrat in the ‘Western’ mold, he has shown himself a potentially valuable partner for the US in foreign affairs and he hasn’t unleashed tanks on parliament.

Would not the world be a much better place with a developed and thriving Russia, building up a middle class through a construction boom? Wouldn’t Russia better develop if blocked the escape of its national wealth to offshore banks located in the West? What terrifies the West is that Russia may in fact do as the Americans have historically done in building up protected industry and agriculture and introducing a rule of law aiming at nationwide development rather than a client kleptocracy. That is the real nightmare of the US press, judging from its Olympic coverage: that Russia may succeed and provide an alternative to the renewal of Cold War-like belligerence now being encouraged by the American “resets” from Ukraine to Sochi.

I was going though my emails today, catching up on my newsletters (I now have 55 to go lol), when I found this piece. I found it VIA Alternet, but it started on Counter Punch. I would like to say that I was surprised to see this, but Alternet has proven in the past to publish almost anything it gets its hands on. If the goal was to get clicks and ad revenue, then it certainly worked (and as such, the joke is on me).

As you have seen in Sochi 2014 and other past entries (as well as my personal facebook and Twitter chatter), I have not been a fan of this years games. I have at every turn, published and made available, the dark underbelly of the whole affair that Russia did not want you to see. But most people were to enthralled in the sports to know, or care (fuck the locals, I want to see some hockey!).
And as predicted (by me anyway), I didn’t start seeing a lot of coverage on the environmental issues (with the exception of enviromental oriented sources, like Ecowatch and Climate Progress) until after the closing ceremonies.

And then today, I stumble on this gem. An article that I will dissect piece by piece.

The Sochi Olympics were the great success Russia hoped for. The opening ceremonies proved a radiant display drawing on Russia’s most compelling cultural assets.  This artful look back to Russia’s past greatness proved both a reminder and challenge to its own people to reprise their historical greatness going forward. Meanwhile, its closing ceremonies reprised these themes, reminding the viewer of Russia’s continued vibrancy in the arts.

From an economic vantage point, national hosts for Olympic games always use them as an occasion for enormous infrastructure spending for economic development. One of us (Hudson) was the economist for Montreal brokerage houses back in 1976 when every French Canadian family seemed to become millionaires on the games’ cost overruns. The usual argument by governments is to hire a Keynesian economist who will say, “Spend tens of $billions and the multiplier will generate hundreds of $billions in national income. Taxes at 20% will recover all the expense, so in an economy with under-employment, whatever you spend on the Olympics will be free.” This is the kind of argument that World Bank economists use to justify infrastructure investment by underdeveloped countries, and what any Olympic host city argues to minimize the vast cost overruns that always occur. Construction contracts are about as honest as figure skating judging.

At least this argument is better than trickle-down economics. For Russia, the Sochi Olympics did for that city’s infrastructure what the Olympics did for Los Angeles, Salt Lake City and other sites. But for Russia, it was the first real Keynesian-type investment in infrastructure to start rebuilding the nation physically – in an economy where construction has not been the strong suit that it has in Western economies. 

Infrastructural upgrades are indeed a good thing for a nations economy. But the question remains, on whether the infrastructure will be further utilized, or just be left to rot. Sochi was a small place before, so the only way I can see the “investment” being worth the costs (not just monetary, but also ecological and social), is if Sochi becomes a major hub.

Not to mention that this argument conveniently puts aside the corruption worries. Dispels them as mere anti-Russian retoric. And worse, it by default takes all the criticism off of any action that is in the name of “upgrading infrastructure”.
No matter what the enviromantal or social cost.
It is such an obvious distractionary argument, that reading it hurts. Putin could have written it himself!  

If there were any time for those hostile to Russia to provoke an intemperate move, this was it. The games were supposed to show a positive Russian face to the world, helping heal the old Cold War tensions. So, from Mr. Putin’s vantage point, the worst thing that could happen would be a distraction to remind the world of old Soviet-era repression. So of course, this was precisely what the Western press played up. To read the New York Times or Washington Post, the real sporting event was whether the police would descend on Pussy Riot’s sideshow.

Russia did itself no favors by sending Cossacks to deal with what would otherwise have been a nearly invisible Pussy Riot protest performance. If Putin’s aim was to promote a view of Russia as a modern developing country, that of the demonstrators was to identify his government as modern-day Stalinists. 

The fact that the authors choose to take the side of Putin and Russia, says a lot about the integrity of the rest of the article. What is interpreted here as Russia trying to present a “New” outlook to the world, is interpreted by me as covering up reality.

The western media were overly focused on Pussy Riot? COME ON.

The fact that action was taken against the Pussy Riot, really says a lot. It says that they have a message that someone does not want heard. Same goes for all the outspoken environmentalists (and others) that were either jailed or exiled for speaking out. 

In advance of the games American audiences were regaled with ‘Orange Alert’ tales of impending doom from terrorist attacks on the demonstrations staged by the regime’s opponents. But the Russian government dealt deftly to provide security for the games while seeing the Western anti-public relations ploy and did not overreact. The games were indeed about athletics, not minority rights, separatism and anti-authoritarian democracy. There was nothing like the violence seen in New York City when the city’s police descended on the peaceful Occupy Wall Street demonstration after 1:30 AM and started smashing the equipment of the demonstrators (especially their guitars and musical instruments), trashing their library and driving them out, with liberal use of pepper spray on the defenseless. 

I will admit that I had wondered about that to, having seen the coverage of violence erupting in areas around Sochi. Some athletes had even choose not to attend the games, for saftey reasons. 

But having heard nothing about it since, is a good thing in a way. With the tight seal on information in Russia, it seems that the only way we would have heard anything, was if something bad had happened. Though I do wonder about this particular informational vacuum, I am also in a way, glad of it.
Its one of those situations, where no news, is good news.

As for the comparison to the actions of the NYPD towards occupy protesters, that was indeed, overzealous. And in this sense, the US does lose some credibility to be pointing fingers.

But lets not forget this is a distraction. Identifying mutual fault in an opposing party, does not render the fault harmless.

Russia’s poorly conceived Cossack intervention aside, it refrained from doing anything on the scale of what Mayor Bloomberg did to Occupy Wall Street. This contrast was not drawn by the Western media. The last thing that they would promote was the idea of Russia new role as peacebroker on the international stage. So there was no mention of how Russian pressure on Bashar al-Assad in Syria prevented an escalation of conflict there that could have rippled through the Middle East, providing fertile terrain for the expansion of the Al-Qaeda franchise in the U.S.-backed alliance. Putin’s act in saving the US from a disastrous intervention might have helped the ‘reset’ on US-Russian cooperation and security relations.

Once again, Putin our savier swoops in to rescue us from ourselves.

*cough* THE UKRAINE!

Leading up to the Sochi Olympics were reports from US media of failed infrastructure on the ground. Hotel rooms were not quite ready. The water was yellow (as usually is the case in newly built and plumbed buildings). The real story, of course, was precisely the vast infrastructure investment in building. This was a new path for Russia, where construction had languished ever since 1917 as the economy pushed industrialization more than residential or commercial building. 

If 50 billion over almost a decade can not equate to at very least, clean tap water and finished facilities in time for the Olympics (didn’t Putin promise that?), then I don’t know what can, short of divine intervention. 

Yet here was a regional city that had been living under near-Third World conditions before the Olympic reconstruction began. Sochi even lacked potable water – a condition still found in many parts of Russia since the collapse of the USSR. The economic success of Sochi has been to turn it into a modern city in the making, with infrastructure that will contribute to its long-term potential to become a tourist destination.

The “no potable water” claim I will admit, I can not really refute. It is not that it is WRONG per-say, its more that I can not find anything to back it up.
However, I have seen the documentary “Putin’s Games”, and I recall one interview of a resident fuming (more like exploding with rage) at the state of the city, since the Olympic preparations began.

About the traffic congestion, electricity rationing, and (important to this) how the water was at times cut off for days at a time. And how at one point, apparently the wrong pipes were connected, so residents got sewage instead of water ( #EWWW! ).
I am paraphrasing, so I may have captured this wrong (if so, my appologies). But either way, it is in there.
Which does not invalidate the “Sochi has no potable water” claim, but it casts doubt. 

The Olympics thus served as a catalyst to bring money and development to the Caucasus. This is, after all, the best tonic against the Islamic fundamentalist movements that thrive most in poverty. The Sochi success thus is a first step in a constructive and peaceful mode of dealing with terrorism, in contrast to the devastation that has been wrought in post-revolution Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.

Of course, that all depends. If this was the kick in the seat of the pants that Russia and Putin needed to revitalize Sochi, and by extension the nation, great. I may have many doubts and misgivings, but I am not beyond being proven wrong.
If this revitalization is a first step in improving relations with the disenfranchised and impoverished locals, then also great.

But I would not hold my breath. The Ukraine has only been under “fresh” leadership for 3 days, and already Russia is threatening to get involved. If they do in fact stick their fingers into the Ukraine once again, you can be sure that Russia does not give a shit about the folks around Sochi.

Sochi represents the kind of development that should take place across all of Russia. It is much better than building up sovereign wealth funds to play in stock markets. Russia’s money and resources – above all its labor – is best employed at home, and construction has been lacking for too long. It typically accounts for 10 percent of GDP in advanced countries. (In hothouse Ireland it rose to 25% of GDP by 2007.) Where better to spend credit and money than on infrastructure to transform Russia’s economy and living standards?

What has collapsed in the past two decades is not only much of Russia’s infrastructure, but its prospective middle class. Nothing would go further toward rebuilding prosperity than a national program to transform the country’s infrastructure. Sochi has shown the way forward. That is the real story that the Western media have sidestepped. 

Once again, if that is and was the plan, then great. Time will tell if it was what I suspect it was, a giant money grab.

The usual corruption charges were leveled against the Sochi Olympics, as in every such games within memory. That is what happens with big construction projects everywhere. Yet there was no reminiscing about similar events over the pasts three or four decades, or for the role in such infrastructure investment in catalyzing an economic takeoff. If Russia becomes a leading actor in the struggle for clean government in the realm of big construction, it will be nearly among the first nation to do this, and let’s hope it can be.

Ah yes, the “usual” corruption charges were leveled . . . . . as if being sure that one or more parties are not unfairly benefiting from the massive inflow of Olympic preparation cash, is unreasonable. Forgive the jab, but this REALLY shows the pro-business side of this author (disclosure? Hell no!).

And if Russia becomes a leader of the pack in running a “clean” government, I am pretty sure I will move there. But since even Pussy Riot was seemingly deemed a threat, that won’t be happening anytime soon. Nor will visiting there, ever now, once this gets posted lol (along with the rest of my facebook and twitter chatter from the last few weeks or so).

The other major criticism of Russia as the games approached led to many Americans not attend: Russia’s recent discriminatory laws against the LGBT community. These laws are mostly designed to pacify socially conservative elements in Russia (as right-wing as American Christian churches – well, maybe not quite as intolerant, but you get the picture). But the reality is that these laws are not being enforced in any serious way. While we hardly support these measures, the best way to deal with this issue will be real economic development of the type presented by Sochi. Development leads to tolerance.

The most serious human rights challenge in Russia is that from ethnic vigilante groups. They are the gangs taking real action against their targets as they once did in the US. In this instance the Russian government has moved aggressively to thwart this dangerous trend. 

Once again, I would love to think the best, but this just does not meld with the actions of the Russian government.
Once again, I sight the stomp on Pussy Riot, the gag of all those questioning or critical of anything Olympic (in particular, the environmentalists), and the stance on the Ukrainian revolution.
Then there is the fact that the mayor of Sochi announced that there is no gays in his city. I do not know how he would know that off hand, but I will assume the best (he didn’t MAKE it happen).

Then there was the whole spectacle of resistance towards homosexuality displayed in the months previous to the games. Putin assured homosexual visitors that there same sex kiss would not be met with litigation, but those beneath him apparently didn’t get the memo. 

There is an easy way to solve this dilemma. GET RID OF THE LAW.

This problem of corruption, and backwards ideals will not go away, if you simply throw money at the problem. In fact, Sochi (and the Olympic preparations in general) seem to stand as a testament to that. Though the budget had 44 million more in currency then the combined total prep costs for the past 3 games, the facilities were STILL incomplete upon Olympians arrival.
If the main priority of the cash was NOT to ensure that Putin’s promise of having EVERYTHING ready beforehand was fulfilled, then it went somewhere.

Adding money to an already corrupt system, just raises the price tag on the corruption. 

As for these “dangerous” ethnic groups, I know little to nothing about them (I admit). But I would wonder if the state of the state, is the reason why they are perceived as being so “dangerous”? There are 2 sides to every story.
As such I do not feel its right to make an assumption that the groups have soley negative intent or reasoning, when the sole source of that said information, is questionable.

 What would Dick Cheney have done if Russian NGOs sponsored separatist movements in Texas, California or New England? How would US police have reacted against armed revolutionaries seizing the armory and throwing Molotov cocktails and bombs at public buildings, killing police, painting swastikas on Jewish houses and claiming vigilante justice? If this is Obama’s “reset” with Russia, he is resetting the Cold War by setting the neocons loose in the former Soviet economies. If there is one thing that the CIA has shown its competence in, it is in setting one ethnic group against the others – Sunni vs Shiite, Kurd against Arab, Persian against them all. When other countries seek to defend a multi-ethnic secular state, the US foreign office in all cases has backed the fundamentalists for the past half-century. Let’s hope Obama moves away from these hardline elements in his State Department and more toward the type of cooperation with Russia that prevented a US invasion of Sryia. 

America is certainly no angel on the world stage. But again, this does not mean that ones own atrocities are canceled out, by those of another.

Not to mention that I am going into this argument blind. Only seeing half the picture. And it is wise to not come to a conclusion, based on only a sliver of information. 

Sochi shows that Russia can pull off world-class projects on the global stage. The games proved how Russia can transform its economy through infrastructure investment in a way that can build up a middle class while countering religious and racist fundamentalist discontent. 

Sochi has shown NONE of that, as of yet. But time will tell, if this is the case. 

The US has a curious double standard when it comes to Russian leaders. The Western press applauded Boris Yeltsin for unleashing tanks on Russia’s elected parliament in 1993, and Wall Street applauded when he turned over the country’s wealth to oligarchs. Contrast this with the treatment of Putin. Although not an ideal democrat in the ‘Western’ mold, he has shown himself a potentially valuable partner for the US in foreign affairs and he hasn’t unleashed tanks on parliament.

Would not the world be a much better place with a developed and thriving Russia, building up a middle class through a construction boom? Wouldn’t Russia better develop if blocked the escape of its national wealth to offshore banks located in the West? What terrifies the West is that Russia may in fact do as the Americans have historically done in building up protected industry and agriculture and introducing a rule of law aiming at nationwide development rather than a client kleptocracy. That is the real nightmare of the US press, judging from its Olympic coverage: that Russia may succeed and provide an alternative to the renewal of Cold War-like belligerence now being encouraged by the American “resets” from Ukraine to Sochi. 

Gee, bend a little lower, will you? I think you didn’t kiss Putin’s ass enough.

Russia is a big boy, on the world stage. It is a petrol state, with most (if not all) those resources now nationalized. Which means that the cash should theoretically be there for these big “upgrades” that the author speaks of. Then, why has it not happened?

Could it be, that the money does not leave the grubby hands of the corrupt?

I really have no idea. But given past events, I am thinking that this guess is not all that far off.

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