Billed as an economic stimulus and Russia's platform for a return to its former status as a world leader, the Winter Olympics in Sochi already have the country in fiscal trouble.
While the Winter Olympics last year were impressive in terms of presentation and pageantry, making such an imprint came at a huge cost -- one far exceeding projections. In total, Russia spent $51 billion to host the games, well ahead of its projections.
Some of that spending isn't exclusive to the Olympics. The construction of dorms, housing, and even transportation infrastructure all go toward modernizing the region around Sochi and investing into Russia's future. But the spending seemed to get out of hand at times, such as when the Olympic ski jump facility -- projected to cost about $40 million -- wound up costing almost $300 million and embroiling one businessman in a corruption scandal.
Now, so soon after Russia basked in the glory of its Olympics, President Vladimir Putin is facing tough financial circumstances. TAccording to Business Insider, debtors are calling and wanting outstanding balances to be paid. Many investors are selling properties built for Sochi, and one bank is forced to write off a $1.7 billion loan taken out on a ski jump and resort investment that has only lost money.
Now, Business Insider reports that at least two top investors are passing off their bad investments to Russia itself, which will pay billions to take over the assets while managing them and minimizing the negative PR. But those costs get passed on to taxpayers, who will have to foot the bill.
Other investors are reportedly in line to cash in their bad assets with Russia, but BI suggests that Putin has to walk a thin line between pleasing those investors -- many of whom wield power in Russia -- and preventing unrest among taxpayers who are not getting the economic boon they promised.
Meanwhile, Russia will host the World Cup in three years, and observers are nervous about whether the country's flimsy economy can handle another major sports spend, and in such a narrow period of time. If Sochi is any indication, Russia will manage to save face -- even if it only delays the inevitable.