Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Winter Olympic Games in Sochi : A new level of corruption and exploitation

Vladimir Putin, dictator of Russia, has visited Sochi, the site of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games:
Russian President Vladimir Putin has invited visitors to the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, due to be held in the southern Russian resort of Sochi on the Black Sea next February.
“We invite to Russia all those who love sports and fair uncompromising struggle,” Putin said at a ceremony to mark one year before the start of the 2014 Winter Olympics on Thursday.
“In 2007, the International Olympic Committee [IOC] supported the Olympic dream of millions of Russian nationals,” Putin said. “We are doing everything possible to justify the confidence.”
The Russian president said he hoped the Sochi Games would take world sports to a qualitatively new level.--
Earlier Thursday, Putin called on Sochi 2014 Olympic organizers to redouble their efforts in one final push to stage the Games without a hitch.
Putin may be right about the Sochi games taking "world sports to a qualitatively new level" - a new level of corruption and exploitation. 
Human Rights Watch has just issued a damning report about the slave culture that has been established in Sochi:
 “Race to the Bottom: Exploitation of Migrant Workers Ahead of Russia’s 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi,” documents exploitation of migrant workers on key Olympic sites, including the Central Olympic Stadium, the Main Olympic Village, and the Main Media Center. Workers told Human Rights Watch that some employers cheated workers out of wages, required them to work 12-hour shifts with few days off, and confiscated passports and work permits, apparently to coerce workers to remain in exploitative jobs.

“Like the athletes competing in the 2014 Winter Olympics, Russia has big hopes and dreams for its performance in Sochi as the host,” said Jane Buchanan, associate Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch and author of the report. “But exploiting workers is a victory for no one, and Russia urgently needs to change course.” --
Workers consistently reported that employers failed to pay full wages and in some cases failed to pay workers at all. A group of workers employed on the Main Media Center, the central hub for journalists covering the Olympics, worked for months without wages, hoping to be paid. One worker from Uzbekistan, “Omurbek,” said that in December 2011 a subcontractor on the site offered him a job paying $770 per month.
“I worked for almost three months … for nothing. Nothing but promises, promises from them,” Omurbek told Human Rights Watch.

In a letter to Human Rights Watch, a subcontractor for the Main Media Center project who the workers said hired them, claimed that its workers are paid on time and in full.

Numerous workers on the Central Olympic Stadium site and on the Main Olympic Village site interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that employers withheld the first month’s wages. Workers received their first payment only after working for two months, and were told they would get the first month’s wages only after the employer decided they had completed the job. If they quit or were fired, they would not recover the first month’s wages.
“Athletes, journalists, and Olympic ticket holders in Sochi will watch the 2014 Winter Games in iconic modern sports venues, broadcast centers, and hotels,” Buchanan said. “But many migrant workers have toiled in exploitative, abusive conditions to build these shimmering façades and luxurious interiors.”

Although most migrant workers interviewed by Human Rights Watch signed employment contracts, most were not given copies. In some cases, workers were not given contracts at all.

In several cases documented by Human Rights Watch, employers retaliated against foreign migrant workers who protested abuses by denouncing them to the authorities, resulting in the workers’ expulsion from Russia. Cases like this highlight the vulnerable situation for migrant workers in Russia, particularly those without contracts to document their employment, Human Rights Watch said.
Human Rights Watch says that IOC intervention is urgently needed, but knowing the way IOC operates makes it highly unlikely that it will intervene in any meaningful way. 
And the HRW report is of course only the tip of the iceberg. There are already reports about a brewing mafia war involving prime property in Sochi. Russia's ranking as one of the most corrupt countries in the world will with 100% certainty make the 2014 Winter Olympic Games the most most corrupt games ever. 

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