Who will pay the price when Sochi Games end?

Thu Feb 20, 2014 1:02am EST
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By Elizabeth Piper

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Even before Sunday's closing ceremony, contractors and investors in Russia's Winter Olympics are scrambling to make sure their books balance before President Vladimir Putin launches a face-saving audit of the Games.

After months of criticism over the record-breaking price tag and opposition allegations of fraud and corruption, Putin has signaled that reports of corruption, waste or abuse of funds will be investigated after the event, if there is evidence.

"A very large amount of money has been invested. Now is not the time to discuss whether it was worth it, or whether the prices were inflated or not. Let the supervisory bodies deal with that, and they will deal with it," Putin told Sochi city officials shortly after the Games began this month.

But instead of singling out the high-profile businessmen who splashed out to build glittering stadiums, hotels and a costly railway to the ski slopes, many Russians think he is more likely to look for scapegoats among local and lower-ranking officials.

That way, say political analysts, he can satisfy public calls for punishment but minimize the political fallout.

Sochi has had an Olympic facelift to bring the dreary Soviet-era resort loved by Josef Stalin into the 21st century.

But, perched on a plastic chair before lines of officials in suits, Putin made clear he was not entirely happy with it.

He praised the mountain facilities, new sewage works and roads, and the more than 40,000 hotel rooms provided by his oligarch friends as their part of the bargain to make Russia look good at the Games.   Continued...

A man walks behind the Olympic rings ahead of the men's snowboard cross qualification round at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games in Rosa Khutor February 17, 2014. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez