TIME olympics

Sochi 2014: Snowboarding, Skiing and Skating Ring in the Games

The 2014 Winter Olympics were off to an early start—the opening ceremony is tomorrow—with qualifying runs for snowboard slopestyle, women's moguls and team figure skating.

TIME olympics

The 20 Best Olympians To Follow on Instagram

They know the best filters for their Sochi pics

Like beautiful views, big air and athlete hijinks? We’ve rounded up the most fun and interesting athletes to follow on Instagram as they document their trip to Sochi. Follow them to get a behind-the-scenes look at the 2014 Winter Olympics or just check out the gorgeous pics and videos we loved below.

Bode Miller, Alpine Skier, Team USA

Olympic and World Cup championship gold medalist in skiing

Bobby Brown, Freestyle Skier, Team USA

Freestyle skier and winner of both the SlopeStyle and Big Air events at the Winter X Games XIV

Joss Christensen, Freestyle Skier, Team USA

First-time Olympian in Sochi

Julia Mancuso, Alpine Skier, Team USA

Won gold at the 2006 Winter Olympics for the giant slalom and silver at the 2010 Winter Olympics for both downhill and combined

Russ Henshaw, Freestyle Skier, Australian Olympic Team

Won a silver medal in Slopestyle at the Winter X Games XV

Sarah Hendrickson, Ski Jumper, Team USA

This is the first year the Olympics have a women’s ski jumping event. At only 19, Hendrickson has won U.S. title and a World Championship gold

Ted Ligety, Alpine Skier, Team USA

Won the 2006 Winter Olympics gold medal in Alpine skiing and is a four-time World Cup Champion

Greg Bretz, Snowboarding, Halfpipe, Team USA

Placed 12th in the 2010 Olympics

Hannah Teter, Snowboarding, Halfpipe, Team USA

Won a gold medal in the halfpipe during the 2006 Winter Olympics

Jamie Anderson, Snowboarding, Slopestyle, Team USA

Competing in the slopestyle’s Olympic debut in Sochi

Justin Reiter, Snowboarding, Alpine, Team USA

Earned a silver medal at the 2013 World Championships in parallel slalom

Mark McMorris, Snowboarding, Slopestyle, Canadian Olympic Team

Won gold medals at both 2012 and 2013 Winter X Games in slopestyle

Nate Holland, Snowboarding, Snowboardcross, Team USA

Has won seven X Games gold medals

Taylor Gold, Snowboarding, Halfpipe, Team USA

Olympic rookie

Kate Hansen, Luge, Team USA

Won the USA Luge National Championship in 2013

Lolo Jones, Bobsled, Team USA

Competed as a hurdler in the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics

J.R. Celski, Short Track Speedskating, Team USA

Won two bronze medals at the 2010 Winter Olympics

Kelly Clark, Snowboarding, Halfpipe, Team USA

Won a gold medal at the 2002 Olympics and a bronze in 2010

Taylor Chace, Sled Hockey, Team USA

Won gold with his team in the 2010 BC Paralympic Winter Games

Monique Lamoureux, Women’s Hockey, Team USA

Won silver with Team USA in 2010 Winter Olympics with her twin sister Jocelyn

TIME olympics

Russia Pushes Back Against Sochi Complaints

Russian security forces patrol the streets as preparations continue for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in Rosa Khutor
Russian security forces patrol the streets as preparations continue for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in Rosa Khutor Feb. 6, 2014. Sergei Karpukhin / Reuters

Officials say the city is safe and that amenities are in working order

Russian officials stepped up efforts Thursday to dispute reports of poor conditions at hotels in the Olympics host city of Sochi and to tamp down security fears.

Dmitri Kozak, a Deputy Prime Minister, pushed back against complaints from journalists in Sochi that their hotel rooms are in miserable condition, the Wall Street Journal reports. Kozak said Thursday that with 100,000 guests staying in Russian hotels, there have been only 103 registered complaints (though he didn’t say what constitutes a registered complaint). He also awkwardly alluded to possible government surveillance of hotel rooms in arguing that some Westerners are purposely sabotaging Sochi’s image. “We have surveillance video from the hotels that shows people turn on the shower, direct the nozzle at the wall and then leave the room for the whole day,” he said before an aide stopped a reporter from asking further questions, the Journal reports.

Kozak’s comments came after members of the media covering the Olympic Games quickly began posting complaints on Twitter about the condition of their rooms this week.

Russia is also working to combat the narrative that many world leaders are staying away from the Olympic Games in Sochi. Dmitri Chernyshenko, a top organizer of the Games, said Thursday that a record number of 65 world leaders are attending, the Associated Press reports, though the International Olympic Committee puts that number significantly lower. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron are among several high-profile world leaders not attending the Games, which got under way Thursday before the opening ceremony on Friday.

(MORE: Sochi 2014: Snowboarding, Skiing and Skating Ring in the Games)

And Kozak looked to calm fears of a potential terrorist attack on Thursday, saying Sochi is as safe as any other city in the world. “There is no reason to believe that the level of danger in Sochi is greater than at any other point on the planet, be it Boston, London, New York or Washington,” he said.

TIME Television

Here’s How 30 Rock Would Have Lampooned the Sochi Olympics

30 Rock may be gone, but the legacy lives on

  • The Gang Goes to Russia

    30 Rock - Season 5
    NBC / NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

    There’s been a flurry of news coming out of Sochi as journalists arrive in Russia for the 2014 Winter Olympics — and if only our dearly departed 30 Rock was still in season, there’s no doubt that Tina Fey and company would find a hugely satisfying way to satirize the chaos in Russia.

    Since that’s unlikely to ever happen, we did the job for them.

  • Dirty Water

    Dirty Water
  • Fur Uniforms

    Fur Uniforms
  • Stray Dogs

    Stray Dogs
  • Yogurt

    Yogurt
  • Vladimir Putin

    Vladimir Putin
  • Willie Geist

    Today's Take
  • Doorknob Drama

    Doorknob Drama
  • The Internet is Down

    Internet Is Down
  • Missing Tracy

    Missing Tracy
  • Harvard Prank

    Harvard Prank
  • A High-Profile Cameo

    t.A.T.u's Cameo
  • No Light Bulbs

    30rock-1
TIME russia

Sochi Olympics Stirs Nationalism of an Exiled People

Circassians protest in Turkey against Olympic Games 2014 in Sochi
Members of a Circassian ethnic group shout slogans during a protest against the Olympics in front of the Russian Consulate in Istanbul, Feb. 2, 2014. Sedat Suna / EPA

Long before Pussy Riot or gay rights activists sought a boycott of the Olympics, a forgotten community native to Sochi's black pebble beaches clamored loudly against the games

Last July, Doku Umarov, a shadowy militant leader operating in Russia’s North Caucasus, urged Muslims through a video message to launch attacks on the Winter Olympics, which begin this week in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. The events to be held there, Umarov claimed, constitute “Satanic dancing on the bones of our ancestors.” His dark pronouncements, as well as terror strikes that recently hit a southern Russian city, set the tone: Sochi’s Games have become the most anxiety-ridden and militarized Olympiad in recent memory. If there is any sort of dancing to be done, it will involve quite a few heavy army boots. But what of those ancestors’ bones?

Long before the punk rock group Pussy Riot or global gay rights activists sought a boycott of the Olympics, a forgotten community clamored loudly against the events in Sochi. The Circassians, whose history of dispossession and exile Umarov opportunistically invoked, are a scattered, largely Muslim people native to the Caucasus, now found mostly outside of Russia in Turkey and parts of the Middle East. Their original homeland stretches from the eastern rim of the Black Sea – where Sochi sits – to the rugged western highlands of the Caucasus, but few of its indigenous inhabitants remain there.

By the mid-19th century, Tsarist Russia sought to expand its dominion to the south, eyeing the ancestral lands of the Circassians and other realms of the Caucasus, which were earlier under the loose control of a declining Ottoman Empire. In 1864, Russian forces defeated the last resisting armies of the Circassians and carried out “the first modern genocide on European soil,” writes Oliver Bullough, author of Let Our Fame Be Great: Journeys Among the Defiant People of the Caucasus, a critically-acclaimed book on the region.

The conquest, by some accounts, led to an ethnic cleansing: during the great expulsion of the Circassians, violent deportations, slaughters of civilians and the onset of famine and disease decimated half of their then 2 million strong population. Russian colonization followed. According to the Financial Times, Sochi’s lavish ski complex at Krasnaya Polyana is “built on the site where most of the Circassians ‘cleansed’ from the surrounding region froze and starved to death—almost exactly 150 years ago—as they awaited deportation.” Those who survived mostly fled to the Ottoman Empire, which itself was soon to collapse. Currently, some two to five million people in Turkey claim Circassian or other Caucasian heritage. Circassian diasporas exist in Jordan, Syria, Israel and even as far afield as New Jersey.

But after more than a century in exile, their hold on the global imagination is thin. That wasn’t always the case: Circassian women, renowned for their beauty, were lusted after by generations of monarchs across the Mediterranean world, while early European Orientalists obsessed over the Circassians’ elegant coats and robes. Still, the exoticism of the past has yielded no clout in the present and some liken the Circassians’ plight to the much-diminished Native Americans of North America.

A Circassian lobby group in Israel wrote a letter to the International Olympic Committee after it awarded the Winter Olympics to Sochi, insisting that “we regard the holding of the Olympic Games on our homeland in the places of mass graves and genocide as an act of vandalism.” The IOC did not even respond to the message. Months of protests by Turkish Circassians outside Russian institutions in Istanbul and elsewhere raised awareness, but achieved little else. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan heads to Sochi on Friday; Russia is a key source of oil and natural gas for Turkey.

In Russia, where some 700,000 Circassians — known as Adyghe — live, their objections have been met by silence and intimidation. Decades of Tsarist and Soviet population policies have seen myriad communities dispersed and relocated, borders redrawn and ethnic homelands erased from the map. The Circassians’ experience is a particularly brutal one, but they are hardly alone. And Russia’s rulers are in no mood to pander. Bullough cites Russian President Vladimir Putin taking a stand on Russian history during a speech in 2007: “It must not be allowed that we are forced to feel a sense of guilt,” he said.

When Putin made his pitch for Sochi, reports the FT, he hailed its rich cultural past, citing the coastal colonies of the ancient Greeks. But, to the ire of Circassians around the world, he made no mention of the people Russia removed from its soil. In recent weeks, Circassian activists and members of civil society who may have voiced their disquiet over Sochi have been detained or called in for questioning in neighboring Russian republics. The contrast between this and the previous Winter Olympics in Vancouver, where Canadian organizers made special effort to spotlight their native inheritance, could not be more stark.

“The Russians have not preserved the memory of their wars for the Caucasus,” writes Bullough, “and the ghosts of their victims will haunt them till they do.” The terror fears surrounding Sochi are in part a consequence of this. But that’s hardly a consolation for the millions of Circassians whose own history has been scribbled away in the footnotes of others and who may look at the celebrations taking place in their homeland only with a sense of loss.

TIME How-To

Olympics on TV, Online and in Apps: How to Catch All the Action

AFP / Getty Images

From television to apps to social media, we'll show you how to stay on top of this year's games.

Even if you haven’t been struck with Olympic fever quite yet, the start of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, this week is sure to ramp up your excitement to Olympic levels. But with more than 2,500 athletes competing in 98 different events, how is it possible to keep up with everything this year’s games have to offer?

From television to apps to social media, we’ll show you how to stay on top of this year’s games.

Catch the Olympics on NBC

NBC’s time-delayed coverage starts on Thursday, Feb. 6 (though the opening ceremonies are on Friday), and runs through Feb. 23. During this time, NBC’s prime time schedule will be taken over by the Olympics so you won’t be able to see your favorite shows until the games are over. Cord cutters should invest in an HD-capable antenna to get the best view.

However, NBC will only be broadcasting a selection of Olympic events, and mostly during prime time. For the entire show, you’ll need to tune in to NBC cable sports affiliate NBCSN. NBCSN will air live coverage starting Saturday, Feb. 8 at 3 a.m. ET.

Stream the games online

You’ll be able to stream Olympics video on demand from NBC’s website NBCOlympics.com right to your mobile device or laptop. There is also the free NBC Sports Live Extra app for over 1,000 hours of coverage and all 98 medal ceremonies:

The catch is you’ll have to log on with information from your cable provider in order to view any video — but once you do, you can stream everything the Olympics has to offer.

If you’re a cord-cutter or you’re only interested in catching Olympics highlights, look to YouTube. The YouTube pages for the Olympics and NBC Olympics will have highlights and the latest video coverage.

Apps for the latest Olympic news

Stay on top of Team USA’s progress with the Road to Sochi app for iPhone and Android, and Windows phones featuring news, scores and the stories behind the Americans participating in this year’s games.

For updates beyond Team USA, you’ll want the Sochi 2014 Results app for iPhone, iPad, Android and Windows Phones. It’s the quickest way to find schedules, scores and other news straight from Sochi.

Follow the Olympics on social media

Social media is the place to get Olympic news fast, from the latest scores to live photos and video. NBC will have the official word on the games, and they’re available wherever you want to follow them. Find NBC on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Vine. Not enough? Follow the official pages for Sochi on Twitter and Facebook or the Olympics on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr.

If you’re craving still more Olympic excitement, NPR has created easy-to-follow Twitter lists of athletes and media attending this year’s games, so you won’t miss the action from any perspective.

If you want to follow a specific athlete, check out the official Olympics social directory, where you can browse or search for specific Olympic social accounts. Many athletes are updating their public Facebook profile pages as well. You can search for them by name in Facebook or follow the Facebook Pages of entire teams. Here’s a short list for you start with:

If you want to keep it simple, then just Like the official Facebook page for the U.S. Olympic team.

Remember that you can search on Facebook like you can on Twitter by using hastags in the search box. Any public post using that hashtag on Facebook will be shown in the results. Key hashtags for the Sochi Games are:

  • #goteamusa
  • #Olympics
  • #seeyouinsochi
  • #sochi2014

Instagram is the place to see the latest photos from the Olympic Village and more. Start by following Team USA and the U.S. Paralympics. Then keep an eye out for photos at these key Olympic locations:

However you prefer to take in media, tech offers you plenty of options for keeping up with the Winter Olympics. Now there’s nothing to do but enjoy the Games and see who takes home the gold.

This article was written by Elizabeth Harper and originally appeared on Techlicious.

More from Techlicious:

TIME Parenting

The Real Damage Bullying Coaches Can Inflict on Kids

A youngster chews on his mouthguard during the filming of the television docu-series "Friday Night Tykes" in San Antonio, Texas.
A youngster chews on his mouthguard during the filming of the television docu-series "Friday Night Tykes" in San Antonio, Texas. Walter Iooss—Esquire Network/Reuters

The controversial youth football reality show, Friday Night Tykes, ignites a conversation about the need for nurturing, inspiring adults in sports leadership

Any parent whose son or daughter plays competitive sports knows full well what a blessing or curse a coach can be.

Between Little League baseball and now years of basketball for club and school teams, my 16-year-old son, Nathaniel, has had them all: the ones who nurture and teach, as well as those who scream gratuitously and demean. Most of his coaches have fallen somewhere in the middle—neither inspiring nor injurious.

Recently, the worst type of coaches have found themselves in the spotlight, thanks to “Friday Night Tykes,” the new reality-TV show about youth football in Texas. One weeping child is told by his coach: “I don’t care how much pain you’re in! You don’t quit.” Another coach chides a player, “Don’t give me that soft crap,” while smacking him on the head. Two coaches featured on the show, where all of the athletes are 8- or 9-years-old, were suspended last week.

Such conduct by an adult can have serious ramifications for a child. “It can impair social and emotional development and cause substantial harm to mental health,” Nancy Swigonski, a professor at Indiana University’s School of Medicine, wrote last month in a piece in the journal Pediatrics. “When the bullying occurs in an athletic setting, those harmful effects are augmented by the stress kids often feel as a result of athletic competition.”

Swigonski’s article opens with the scene of a parent walking into basketball practice at her daughter’s high school, only to find “the head coach screaming at the team that they lacked intelligence and were lazy because they had not executed a play properly.”

This kind of behavior is hardly uncommon. Swigonski cited one study of more than 800 American children in which 45% said their coaches called them names, insulted them or verbally abused them during play. In another study from the United Kingdom, 6,000 young adults were asked about their experiences in youth sports, and 75% said they suffered “emotional harm” at least once, and one-third of that group said their coach was to blame.

But what often gets lost in these stories is the flip side of the equation: A “true coach”—to use the term favored by Morgan Wootten, the first high school coach to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame—can also make a lifelong difference for a young person, only in a deeply positive way.

This isn’t to say that coaches should be soft or easy. But there’s a clear line between expecting a lot from kids and being abusive. “It’s good to be tough,” Swigonski said. “It’s just not OK to be a bully.”

Nathaniel’s high school hoops coach is both tough and caring. He dishes out advice, freely and often, to a bunch of too-cool-for-school teenagers, not only about defending the screen-and-roll, but also about eating well, mindfulness, leadership and gratitude. He asks them about their grades, knows what makes them tick and talks to them about who they are and what they want from life.

Before the start of the season, the coach gave the boys a three-page handout that included these guiding principles: “No cliques, no complaining, no criticizing, no jealousy, no egotism, no envy, no alibis.” “Poise, confidence and self-control come from being prepared.” “Earn the respect of everyone, especially of yourself.” “Take care of your health—mental, moral and physical. Be a gentleman in all ways at all times.”

After practices that are as physically and mentally demanding as any my son has ever experienced, his coach assigns “basketball homework.” At one point this season, the players were asked to list each day three things they were grateful for. Later, they had to keep a daily log detailing a random act of kindness they’d performed. (For my son, that meant taking out the garbage without quite so much lip. Thanks, coach!)

Nathaniel’s team, in other words, is fortunate enough to be led by someone who sees himself not just as a coach, but as a mentor. And mentoring matters. A wealth of research has found that kids who have such an adult in their lives are far less likely than their peers to become bullies themselves; are apt to become more engaged citizens; and substantially raise their odds of going to college.

“Coach says he’s not just teaching us about basketball,” Nathaniel explains, “but also about how to be men.”

As parents, it’s our job to protect our kids from bullying coaches, and Swigonski offers several tips on that front. Among them: Sit in on practices and games to observe the coach; confront the coach if there are issues; and, if that’s not helpful, scrutinize the school’s code of conduct and talk to the administration. If things get really out of hand, she advises calling child protective services.

It’s easy to understand why the worst coaches steal the headlines. But it’s the best ones who make a truly lasting impression.

TIME olympics

Americans Warn Airlines of Toothpaste Bombs on Sochi Flights

Security personnel patrol the Olympic Park at the 2014 Sochi  Winter Olympic Games
REUTERS

Amid an already tense security environment, the United States is now warning airlines flying to the site of Russia's Winter Olympics to be on the lookout for explosive devices disguised as passengers' toiletries that may be used to attack aircraft

American authorities are warning airlines with flights to Russia for the Olympic Games to be on the lookout for bombs in toothpaste containers or other similar cosmetic tubes.

Citing unnamed government officials, CNN and ABC News report that the warning was issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to both domestic and foreign airlines. The warning says intelligence reports suggest such containers could be used to store the ingredients for a bomb to be assembled aboard an aircraft. Authorities cautioned that they haven’t identified any specific threat to the U.S., CNN and ABC report.

“While we are not aware of a specific threat to the homeland at this time, this routine communication is an important part of our commitment to making sure we meet that priority,” an official told ABC News. “As always, our security apparatus includes a number of measures, both seen and unseen, and DHS will continue to adjust security measures to fit an ever evolving threat environment.”

Security in the host city of Sochi has been high for months, as the Russian government prepares for the Winter Olympics that start this week while also combating the threat of militants operating in the Caucasus. In the months leading up to the Olympics, terrorist groups have issued threats, and three suicide bombings in as many months have rocked cities in Russia. That has clearly had an impact on observers in the U.S. — in a CNN poll released on Wednesday, 57% of Americans said they believe a terrorist attack at the Sochi Games is likely.

“Out of an abundance of caution, [the Department of Homeland Security] regularly shares relevant information with domestic and international partners, including those associated with international events such as the Sochi Olympics,” the department said in a statement.

TIME Sports

DMX to Fight George Zimmerman in Celebrity Boxing Match

Stop the world, we want to get off

Now for some news that will make you lose your mind (up in here, up in here): Rapper DMX is slated to fight George Zimmerman, the former neighborhood watchman who was found not guilty in the shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin.

Zimmerman — who told Radar Online last month that boxing was his hobby even prior to the “incident”— has been trolling for a celebrity to step into the ring with him ever since Damon Feldman, owner of Celebrity Boxing, opened his inbox to potential opponents. “The news has been out for an hour and my e-mail is overloaded with 8,000 people wanting to fight George,” Feldman told CNN.

It turned out there are a lot of people eager to go a few rounds with Zimmerman, who was acquitted in the February 2012 “incident” in which he shot dead the unarmed Martin. Out of a final pool of 15,000 applicants, Feldman chose to put Zimmerman in the ring with rapper DMX.

Now that the match up is set, the rapper is out for blood. He told TMZ, “I am going to beat the living f–k out him … I am breaking every rule in boxing to make sure I f–k him right up.” While the 43 year old rapper intends to win, Zimmerman, 30, has been training for months. Luckily, the Twitterverse has a few ideas to even the odds:

The date, time, and location of the three-round fight will be announced at a news conference next Wednesday.

MORE: George Zimmerman’s Paintings: A Critical Appraisal

MORE: DMX Crashing a Wedding Party Is Gonna Make You Lose Your Mind (Up In Here, Up In Here)

TIME europe

Putin’s Explosive Olympics

Vladimir Putin Visits Sochi Ahead Of Winter Olympics 2014
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Sochi Winter Olympics 2014 volunteers in Sochi, Russia, January,17,2014. Sasha Mordovets / Getty Images

Terrorist threats, a sky-high price tag, geopolitical turmoil, and controversial anti-gay laws are making for a combustible Winter Games

If you’re a sponsor, a spectator, or Vladimir Putin himself, you better brace yourself for the Sochi Olympic Games. Between the security risks, violence in neighboring Ukraine, protests from the international community and the staggering price tag, Sochi has earned its status as the most geopolitically interesting Olympics since 1980 (incidentally, the last time the Games were held in Russia). But that’s not an honor anyone would want. To top it all off, given the erratic behavior from Putin and the Kremlin of late, expect the unexpected at the 2014 Olympics.

It’s impossible to put a percentage on the risk of terrorism at this year’s Games. But suffice it to say, those with brand and sponsorship exposure in Sochi are vastly more concerned than they have been for any other Olympics in recent memory. There are known threats from known terrorist groups. Back in July, the leader of a Chechen separatist organization pledged “maximum force” to undermine the Sochi Games. On January 19th, two men with explosives released a video warning Putin to expect a “present” at the Olympics. These warnings come amidst a spree of recent bombings in nearby Volgograd. While Putin has guaranteed strict security in Sochi, it would come as no surprise if there are terrorist incidents elsewhere in Russia during the Olympics—and a strike in Sochi itself cannot be ruled out.

Exacerbating this issue is a severe lack of trust between Russia and the U.S. U.S. involvement in the security preparation for the 2004 Athens Olympics began after the events of 9/11. The Americans gave $35 million in security assistance—and many multiples of that figure via in kind expertise, equipment, and physical support—with input from about 20 different entities and offices across various U.S. agencies (let alone the assistance from European powers). For Sochi, Putin’s pride and bravado leave him unwilling to accept any substantial outside help. Russia has asked for terrorist-tracking surveillance technology that the U.S. has refused to share with a country it doesn’t trust. The main security agreement between the U.S. and Russia? They’ve agreed to try and maintain a dialogue throughout the Games; American Rear Admiral John Kirby said he “would describe it more as a check-in call.” In many ways the American relationship with Russia was warmer and more trusting under Gorbachev after 1988 with perestroika and glasnost than it is today.

This bravado from Putin has been on display in spades over the past year. In his dealings with the West on Syria and its chemical weapons (including his notorious New York Times op-ed, published on September 11th, no less) and in his decisions to welcome Edward Snowden, free rival Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Pussy Riot, and bail out Ukraine, we’ve seen Putin excel at doing what’s best for Putin. His actions are increasingly unpredictable.

The costs and corruption in Sochi have been staggering. Remember the scandalously expensive 2002 Salt Lake City Winter games? They cost $1.3 billion. Russian organizers originally estimated that the Sochi Winter Olympics would cost about $12 billion. As accusations of corruption mount, the total cost of the Sochi Games, now estimated at about $51 billion, will exceed the cost of all previous Winter Olympic Games combined. Much of that money has enriched a handful of Russia’s elites, with no prospect for return on investment for the average Russian citizen.

Ukraine is a potential geopolitical flashpoint. The country is in its current state partly because of Russia’s historical tendency to shut off natural gas to its neighbor whenever Kiev tacked too far from Russia toward integration with the European Union. Frustration with the previous futile leadership helped get Viktor Yanukovych elected president. When protests flared up in November, it was Putin’s $15 billion bailout that gave Ukraine an economic lifeline—with the quid pro quo of being increasingly shackled to Russia. Who else but Putin could unilaterally take $15 billion his own country’s pension system to bail out a neighbor with no pushback? Who else would want to? Today, protests are building once more in Ukraine; we are not so far from civil war. There are reports of plainclothes special forces from Russia arriving in Kiev to support a very embattled President Yanukovych—a man who has already used violence against his people. What happens if Ukraine explodes during the Olympics? It has the potential to get really ugly for Putin. Remember the ’08 Beijing Olympics, during which Russia invaded Georgia? Putin will certainly not do anything of the sort while hosting his own Olympics, but the Ukraine issue could really steal the spotlight.

There are other areas where a rift between Russia and the West adds a political dimension to the Games. Russia’s recent anti-gay laws have triggered international outcry that will cast a pall over the games. The Mayor of Sochi’s absurd comment that there are no gays in his city underscores how out of touch Russian officials can be on the issue. Many top-level country delegations are refusing to attend in defiance. Throw Snowden into the equation—yet one more distraction, as he is free to move about the country and thus make headlines during the Games—and this is shaping up to be a very contentious Olympics indeed.

Add up the scandals, the corruption, and the violence on Sochi’s doorstep and what do you get? More geopolitical intrigue than we have seen at the Olympics in over 30 years. Be prepared for quite a spectacle.

Ian Bremmer (@ianbremmer) is president of Eurasia Group and author of Every Nation for Itself: Winners and Losers in a G-Zero World.

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