Saturday, June 1, 2013

To Commit Crimes on a Really Big Scale, It Helps to Be a Government

There are few organizations on earth more thoroughly corrupt than the International Olympic Committee. It is, after all, a sort of super-government – most of the members of the committee are appointees of the various member governments – and we don’t need Lord Acton to tell us that governments are inherently corrupt; simple observation is sufficient for that. Super-governments, such as the IOC or UN, therefore, can be reasonably expected to be the same, only more so, and they generally meet our expectations.

To switch subjects slightly, for only a moment -- under the dictatorship of Vladimir Putin, Russia has become an example of what Al Capone might have accomplished had he had bigger ambitions. Here we have an entire vast nation being looted by a criminal gang that barely tries to disguise itself as a government, and unwilling to limit itself to the usual levels of graft expected of most governments and reluctantly tolerated by their victims citizens.

So, while I normally would assume that an article claiming that thirty billion dollars had been stolen might involve a good deal of hyperbole, it gains plausibility when we learn that it is about next year’s Olympic Games in Russia. With the IOC and Putin working in tandem, pretty much anything is possible.
Opposition leaders Boris Nemtzov and Leonid Martynyuk released a report claiming that more than $30 billion of monies allocated to Sochi projects has gone missing. The Games will be the most expensive ever at a total cost of around $50* billion, which Nemtzov insists is more than the previous 21 Winter Olympics combined and vastly higher than the original $12 billion budget. 
"We account this irregularity for corruption, fraud, sloppiness and unprofessionalism," Nemtzov told a Moscow press conference.
These are members of the opposition, so it’s very likely their report is not unbiased. But here’s another report from a few months ago:
Little gets done in brave new Russia without the right palms being greased with the right amount of rubles, and the impending arrival of the Olympic five-ringed circus seems to have sent the avarice into overdrive. 
Transparency International, a global anti-corruption watchdog, started looking closely at the Sochi Olympics once the building projects got underway and budget predictions of an initial $10 billion skyrocketed. ... The organization's research has found that any public project in Russia is affected by corruption that adds approximately 30 percent to the overall cost. 
"With Sochi, you can say it is more like 50 percent or higher,” chief researcher Yuli Nisnevich told Yahoo! Sports. "It is an opportunity that the corrupt simply cannot resist."
Let the games theft begin!

* For comparative purposes, the last winter games, in Vancouver, cost seven or eight billion. The much larger summer games in London last year cost $14.4b.

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