Tag Archives: Russia

Sochi’s Rogue’s Gallery

The NYT surveys the would-be mayors of the city that will host the 2014 Winter Games:

Now in the running to become mayor of the southern Russian city of Sochi: a former ballerina for the Bolshoi Ballet; a porn star who sometimes goes by the name Velvet Angel; the head of Russia’s largest Masonic lodge; an Anglophile newspaper mogul; a Yeltsin-era reformer who is anathema to the Kremlin; and, among 15 or so other contenders, the president of Russia’s Arm Wrestling Federation.

And this, of course, is to say nothing of the suspected murderer who just dropped out of the race.

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The 2014 Winter Games: Now with Infinitely Less Intrigue

Remember Andrei Lugovoi, the man Scotland Yard suspects of murdering a former KGB agent and the man who was also thinking of running for mayor of the host city of the 2014 Winter Olympics? Well, he’s dropping out of the Sochi mayor’s race because of “low support.” From the Reuters story:

The LDPR, which last month said Lugovoy was its most likely candidate, dropped him Tuesday in favor of a local politician after Sochi residents said they would prefer to be represented by someone from their region.

Note that the good people of Sochi’s distaste for Lugovoi has nothing to do with the likelihood that he killed a man with radioactive poison.

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Murder! Olympics!

Andrei Lugovoi, a seat-holder in the Russian Duma, is considering running for mayor of Sochi, a resort destination nestled between the Black Sea and the Caucasus Mountains. Here’s the dual rub: Sochi will play host to the 2014 Winter Games, and Lugovoi is a murder suspect. In fact, Lugovi is Scotland Yard’s leading suspect in the fatal poisoning of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko. Obviously, all of this raises the unsavory possibility that an alleged murderer will be welcoming the world to the 2014 Winter Olympics.

NBC, you have your human-interest programming angle.

(HT: Passport)

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Petty the Pol

Racing luminary Richard Petty is a Republican candidate for Secretary of State in North Carolina. He’s running against Democrat Elaine Marshall, who’s held the office since 1997. They’re tight in the polls.

Elsewhere, Russian tennis star Vera Zvonareva aspires to work for the U.N. one day, and hurdler Liu Xiang is now a member of a powerful Chinese parliamentary body.

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Fetch My Slippers and My Copy of Pravda from the Driveway

Attention, Russian dog-show enthusiasts: the fix is probably in. At the recent Eurasia-2009 Dog Show in Moscow, more than 12,000 pooches vied for top honors. In the end, the top three spots went to … three dogs belonging to Russian President Dmitri Medvedev.

Yakov Smirnoff, you now have new material.

(HT: Passport)

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Putin’s Passion

TNR has a look at the rebirth of Russian soccer. Russia, of course, just lost to Spain in the semis of Euro 2008, but that marks a thoroughgoing improvement for a team that, until recent seasons, had struggled. Much of Russia’s success on the pitch is traceable back to former president and current prime minister Vladimir Putin.

How has Putin engineered such a turnaround? By making threats:

“Putin has been clawing back the country’s assets from the oligarchs and forcing them to invest their enormous riches in Russia, including Russian football,” Jim Riordan, formerly a professor at the University of Bradford in England and an expert on Russian sport, told The Observer. “If they refuse, they know they will lose not only their assets. They could end up down the Volga.”

Perhaps that’s the best hope for U.S. soccer–extort their way to the top with the help of a paranoid autocrat.

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L’Affaire Becky Hammon

Becky Hammon, a guard for the San Antonio Silver Stars of the WNBA, recently caused a row by agreeing to play for the Russian women’s team in the forthcoming Beijing Summer Games. Now, before you assume that she’s a treasonous ingrate and that this can’t possibly be a nuanced issue, let’s observe a few facts …

  • Hammon wanted to play for the U.S. team but wasn’t initially offered an invitation to tryouts.
  • Hammon has dual citizenship because she spends more than half the year playing for a pro team in Moscow.
  • In September of last year, the U.S. expanded its pool of eligibles and offered Hammon the chance to compete for a spot, but by that point she had already committed to the Russian squad.
  • She stood to lessen the value of her contract with CKSA if she didn’t agree to play for Russia. For comparison’s sake, Hammon makes $95,000 U.S. per year in the WNBA and almost $600,000 U.S. per year in Russia. As well, she stands to make six figures in bonus money if the Russians make it to the medal round. As Hammon herself said, “There’s nothing more American than taking advantage of an opportunity.”

Needless to say, not everyone agrees with Hammon’s decision:

“If you play in this country, live in this country, and you grow up in the heartland and you put on a Russian uniform,” Team USA coach Anne Donovan told ESPN, “you are not a patriotic person in my mind.”

Pointed stuff. Of course, if Team USA had wanted Hammon so badly, then they would’ve named her to the initial list of eligibles. They didn’t, and Hammon sought other opportunities. Hammon finished second in the WNBA MVP voting last season, but Team USA didn’t regard her as worthy of one of the 23 initial tryout spots. That’s their error, and their complaints ring hollow because of it.

As for fan outrage, it’s more understandable. If Hammon were, a, actually of Russian descent and, b, not saddling up with a nation whose relations with us are complicated (to put it charitably), then this wouldn’t be a story. But it is. Hammon had to know that when she agreed to play for Russia.

Calling her traitorous or unpatriotic is extreme, however. After all, what’s more fitting in this, the global economy, than exporting yourself? Ultimately, it’s a business decision, and in some ways that’s every bit as American as deficit spending and morbid obesity.

If nothing else, Ms. Hammon should be glad she’s not Polish.

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