If it was the Summer Olympics, no doubt Putin would have done his shirtless thing and inspected sites from horseback.
Russian President Vladimir Putin began inspecting Winter Olympic venues in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Friday, five weeks before the start of an event that has been dogged by human rights criticism and security worries.
In footage shown on state TV channel Rossiya-24, Putin, 61, was shown gliding down a ski slope wearing dark glasses and a helmet. He and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev also met surprised athletes and inspected hotels in the city.
Putin’s spokesman said he would check out all venues “in detail” in the coming days and watch a rehearsal of the opening ceremony.
The success or failure of the Olympics will form a big part of Putin’s legacy. He has closely identified himself with the $50 billion project, ever since flying in person to Guatemala in 2007 to persuade Olympic chiefs to award the Games to Sochi.
When the ski-jump venue fell behind schedule last year, Putin not only fired a senior official but publicly humiliated him on television.
The recent build-up to the event has been troubled: two suicide bombings killed 34 people this week in Volgograd, some 700 km (400 miles) northeast of Sochi, highlighting the threat from Islamist insurgents who have vowed to disrupt the Games.
The International Olympic Committee has said it has no doubt Russian authorities will be able to provide security.
Moscow has also drawn heavy criticism of its human rights record and a law banning the spread of “gay propaganda” among minors, which activists and Western governments say violates basic freedoms.
In a move to disarm critics before the Games, Putin last month freed several of the country’s best known prisoners: former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and two members of the female punk group Pussy Riot.
(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)
Subscribe to Skift Pro
Subscribe to Skift Pro to get unlimited access to stories like these ($30/month)Subscribe Now
Photo Credit: Russian President Putin looks on during his visit to the "Laura" cross country ski and biathlon centre in the resort of Krasnaya Polyana near Sochi Reuters
Booking.com Faces $17.5 Million Competition Fine in Russia
These sorts of fines, like the one in Russia, are almost inconsequential to a company the size of Booking.com. Still, the company wants to be in good standing in a country as large as Russia.
Reuters | 3 weeks ago
Vaccine Proof to Supersede Mask Mandates for Big Las Vegas Events
For the adamant mask opponents, this new edict from the Nevada governor may be the impetus to get vaccinated. That should be welcome news for event planners and large venues, especially in hard-hit Las Vegas.
Bhargav Acharya, Reuters | 1 month ago
Russia’s Travel Resilience Underscored by Startup Aviasales’ $43 Million Funding
Russia has an unpredictable business environment, and many of its households face income pressures. But the country should see a long-term shift from offline to online booking of travel, and that could be a tailwind for Aviasales and its peers.
Sean O'Neill, Skift | 1 month ago