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Assessing the Damage

Author: Mikhail Ivanov

Jan/Feb 2014
Page 28   (12 pages)

Summary: Olympic host countries typically garner many more medals than their average take at a games. We look at Russia's prospects and what their victory could "cost" Russia. The story includes a two-page guide to the games, with a schedule of events and maps of the venues.


On November 23, 2013, in the build-up to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev signed a resolution whereby the state will pay out R4 million ($125,000) to any Russian athlete who wins a gold medal at the Sochi Games (silver will bring R2.5 million, bronze R1.7 million). So what is the potential “damage” these awards might do to the Russian budget?

Odds are high that the “damage” to the state will be greater than it was four years ago. Andrei Kolesnikov of Kommersant has covered several recent Olympics. “It would be hard for Russia to do worse than in Vancouver,” he said. There, Russia finished eleventh in the overall medal count – seen by many as a humiliation. What is more, the team from one of the world’s wintriest countries brought home just three Winter Olympics golds – half as many as were won by South Korea.

Host teams always do better than their average at the Olympics, and the Russian team surely dreams of the sort of success enjoyed by Great Britain in London’s 2012 Summer Olympics. After the 2010 games, President Vladimir Putin made a very clear statement of intent:

“After Vancouver and our humble results at this Olympiad, I already hear ideas to the effect that it’s not the most important thing to be among the leaders in Sochi, it’s just about putting together a decent performance. So I must tell you this is not true. One enters such competitions not just to work up a sweat, but rather to win. And millions of sports fans in our country expect a victory from our national team. In any case, the (Russian) team must be among the leaders.”

Hockey legend and former Sports Minister Vyacheslav Fetisov echoed this sentiment, telling Komsomolskaya Pravda that “a lot of money, hopes and expectations have been invested in the Sochi Olympics. We don’t have the right to lose at home.”

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