Sochi Bid Chief Downplays Fears of Corruption

APFrom left, Sochi bid spokesman Andrei Braginsky, Chernyshenko and Olympic winner Svetlana Zhurova on Tuesday.
A key figure behind Sochi's successful bid for the 2014 Olympics on Tuesday brushed aside concerns over potential embezzlement during the construction of facilities for the Winter Games, accusing the media of unfairly playing up the issue.

Dmitry Chernyshenko, the Sochi bid chief, said President Vladimir Putin's decision to set up a group to prevent graft by officials organizing the games was intended to "prevent possible speculation on the subject of the effective use of resources."

"In the course of the past 15 years, Russia has demonstrated convincing progress in achieving, let's say, democracy, openness, transparency," Chernyshenko said. "The initiatives that our president is implementing demonstrate that he pays great attention to this and that means that the result will be achieved."

Putin has pledged $12 billion to transform Sochi from a worn-out Black Sea resort of traffic jams and ramshackle Soviet-era hotels into a world-class winter sports hub. The funding will include $5 billion from private investors. Most of the facilities will be built from scratch.

But experts say corruption has markedly increased in recent years under Putin. The global anti-corruption group Transparency International estimates the level of graft has jumped as much as sevenfold since 2001.

Georgy Satarov, head of Indem, an anti-corruption think tank, predicted that up to half of the government funds earmarked for the games might be stolen, Vedomosti reported Tuesday.