Sochi Olympics documentary casts harsh light on Putin, preparations

Vladimir Putin's efforts to ready Sochi for the Olympics has been criticized for alleged corruption and human rights abuses.
Ivan Sekretarev/AP

At this year's International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam, one of the most intriguing entries was Putin's Games, an investigative documentary chronicling the alleged corruption, human rights violations, environmental damage and all-around shadiness behind the construction of 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi.

Prior to the film's world premiere in the Netherlands on Nov. 25, Russian authorities feverishly tried to prevent the film from being released -- anywhere. Producer Simone Baumann, who had spent the last two years working on the project alongside Russian-Israeli director Alexander Gentelev, has openly talked about receiving a €600,000 offer in exchange for making sure the movie never saw the light of day. Baumann refused the offer, along with all further requests to negotiate which followed.

For Russia's president, the Sochi games have been a personal cause, stemming in part from his longtime affinity for skiing in the region. The Games have appeared to be as much about Putin's personal pride as that of his country.

The film profiles Sochi's residents, many of whom have been inconvenienced by Olympic construction as others have been displaced from their own homes by force. The material presented in the documentary seems to indicate the Putin government will stop at nothing to ensure his pet project is a success. One of the people interviewed in the film states that Putin considers the games to be a monument that he is building to himself.

"Everyday the water and electricity shut off, the contractors don't give a damn about anyone," complains one irate local. "If they need the road they'll block it off for everyone else; if they need water they'll cut off our supply. No one thinks about the people that live here." Another Sochi man talks about his home of 40 years being torn down to accommodate construction -- forcing him and his family to move into a one-room rental.

The file has shots of landfills overflowing into residential areas, standstill traffic and includes a great deal of discussion on the subject of corruption -- which allegedly has plagued every step of the construction process.

Russia's Olympic construction committee (Olympstroy) has long been suspected of illegitimate business practices, money laundering, bribes and kickbacks for authorities. But the reaction of Russian officials to the film's release -- only one showing of Putin's Games is being permitted at the ArtDoc Film Festival in Moscow, where it is scheduled to make its Russian debut on Dec. 6 -- and alleged attempts to buy the filmmakers' silence only fuels suspicion that the upcoming celebration of sport in Sochi has a dark side the host country doesn't want revealed.

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