Sochi: Where it’s 50 Degrees in January and the Railroads Are Paved With Caviar

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Jan. 7 2014 3:46 PM

Sochi: Where the Railroads Are Paved With Caviar

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A picture taken on Jan. 24, 2013, shows an inside view of the new railway station Esto-Sadok, between Adler and Krasnaya Polyana in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Photo by Mikhail Mordasov/AFP/Getty Images

There’s a lot to recommend Joshua Yaffa of Bloomberg Businessweek’s cover story on the corruption and mismanagement surrounding the Sochi Olympics, but the highlight is certainly this nugget on the newly built 30-mile railroad between the beachside town of Adler, where the main Olympic stadium is located, and the mountain resort of Krasnaya Polyana, which will host the ski and snowboarding events:

Among Russians, the project is famous for a different reason: its price tag. At $8.7 billion, it eclipses the total cost for preparations for the last Winter Olympics in Vancouver in 2010. A report by opposition politicians Boris Nemtsov and Leonid Martynyuk calculated that the Russian state spent three times more on the road than NASA did for the delivery and operation of a new generation of Mars rovers. An article in Russian Esquire estimated that for the sum the government spent on the road, it could have been paved entirely with a centimeter-thick coating of beluga caviar.
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And yes, the head of the state agency building the railroad is a close associate of President Putin.

Overall, Russia is spending about $11 billion more for its Olympics than China did in 2008, which is pretty remarkable given that the Summer Olympics boasts three times more events and more than four times as many athletes.

Wondering why the ski events are so far from the waterfront town where the games are supposedly taking place? Keep in mind, as those of you in the continental United States huddle inside for warmth today, that today’s high temperature in Sochi was 52 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. Follow him on Twitter.