The Russian city of Volgograd is burying its dead this week — 34 victims of twin suicide bombings that went off just 400 miles (640 kilometers) from where the Sochi Games will be held. And in less than three weeks, the Olympic torch reaches Volgograd, stop 117 on an epic route toward the Olympics’ opening ceremony.
These Olympics are being dubbed “Putin’s Games.” For Russia’s top man, eager to impress the world and show he can pull off a major multinational event safely and successfully, that moniker could turn out to be a compliment or a curse.
President Vladimir Putin’s reputation on the global stage has already been battered in the run-up to the Olympics by the denunciation of Russia’s new anti-gay law, boycott calls, mounting costs and environmental concerns.
But more than anything, particularly with the soccer World Cup to come in 2018 across the nation, Russia has to ensure Sochi is remembered only for sporting feats.