SOCHI, Russia — An interactive Web site launched Monday by anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny paints a vivid picture of the suspected cost overruns and conflicts of interest at the Sochi Winter Olympics.
Russia has spent about $51 billion to deliver the Sochi Olympics, which run Feb. 7-23, making them the most expensive games ever, even though as a winter event it plays host to many fewer athletes than summer games do.
Navalny claims that Russia spent twice as much as necessary to build at least 10 of the Olympic venues – including the Bolshoi Ice Palace, the Fisht Stadium for the opening/closing ceremonies and the speed-skating arena.
Allegations of corruption have dogged preparations for the Sochi Games for years, as reported by The Associated Press and others. Navalny’s new Web site – Sochi.FBK.info – combines data gathered during his own investigations along with media reports and other activists’ analysis.
President Vladimir Putin has rejected claims about rampant corruption in Sochi, saying the inflated prices were due to the honest mistakes of investors who underestimated the costs.
The Sochi Organizing Committee would not comment Monday on Navalny’s Web site.
RECORD ATHLETES: The U.S. will bring 230 athletes to Sochi, the largest delegation ever for any country at the Winter Games.
Todd Lodwick in Nordic combined will become the first American to compete in six Winter Olympics. Lodwick’s teammate, Billy Demong, and skier Bode Miller are headed to their fifth; only three U.S. Winter Olympians other than Lodwick had previously accomplished that feat.
Of the 106 returning Olympians, 49 have won medals – 13 of them gold.
The U.S. Olympic Committee said Monday that the oldest member of the team is 46-year-old curler Ann Swishelm, while the youngest is 15-year-old freestyle skier Maggie Voisin.
HOCKEY: The NHL has not decided whether to let its players participate in the Olympics beyond this year, meaning the Sochi Games could be the finale for dozens of players.
Sweden’s Daniel Alfredsson, 41, has competed in each of the past four Olympics with players from the league and he said he is looking forward to doing it for a fifth and probably final time in February. The Detroit Red Wings forward said it would be “bad” for the NHL to take the unique experience away from its players.
League officials, though, are not sure freezing their league for two-plus weeks in the middle of the season is good for business – especially when the Olympics are not in the U.S. or Canada.
The NHL had 150 of its players – at least one for each of the 12 countries in the tournament – picked to play in Russia.
NBC SIGNS VONN: Ski champion Lindsey Vonn will be working for NBC during the Winter Olympics, although she won’t be traveling to Sochi.
The network said Monday the gold medalist will report on the Olympics for the Today show and some NBC Sports broadcasts.
NBC said Vonn will give Today show viewers an update on her rehabilitation and talk about how athletes prepare mentally and physically for the competition during the days leading to the games. She’ll continue her broadcast work once the games start.