(ATR) Seldom has a head of state been more closely linked to Olympic Games as Vladimir Putin and Sochi 2014.
The Russian leader charmed the IOC in 2007 to win the right to host the Winter Games. Since then he has made sure that government and organizing committees have the resources to accomplish the enormous task of preparing for Russia’s first winter Olympics.
Besides financial and moral support, Putin will be in the spotlight in Sochi to deliver on his promise to welcome the world to the Games. The anti-gay propaganda law has become a constant distraction for the Russian hosts and it’s likely to draw attention during the Games, testing the tolerance for dissent. Putin has already taken steps to remove some flashpoints of controversy with pardons for notable political prisoners.
But beyond peaceful protests there are concerns about security in Sochi, located in the volatile region of the Caucasus. Putin will be responsible for leading the effort to keep the Games free of trouble.
How Sochi welcomes the world will be seen as a harbinger of what to expect in Russia as it prepares for other major international sports events after the Olympics. In 2018 Russia will host the FIFA World Cup, in 2015 the FINA World Championships and later this year Formula One racing at the Olympic Park in Sochi.
2013 ranking: unranked
Written by Ed Hula.