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Are the Olympic Games Profitable to Employees?
The Olympics have been Putin’s pet, but are any of the citizens or workers benefitting from it, too?

Spiking Costs

With the Winter Olympics in full swing in Russia, it’s easily become the most expensive Olympics ever held. Part of that reason was the seaside town of Sochi just didn’t have the proper infrastructure needed to host one of the world’s biggest sporting events. Not only did ski tracks and parks have to be constructed, but there was also a dearth of hotels, roads, and tram lines.

But infrastructure costs weren’t the whole part of the story, either. Putin’s favorite ski resort, Krasnaya Polyana, was close to Sochi so the games had to be held there. However—and the whole world knows this now—Sochi isn’t exactly the type of place that conjures up associations of winter sports and cold weather. The World Cup even had to be cancelled last year on account of no snow, so making snow was another big cost to the games.

Who Builds it All?

There’s also—in theory at least—setting aside a budget to pay the workers who made the games possible. I say “in theory” because from all the tweets, articles and posts about the Olympics, a common theme that’s arisen is how much the workers have been given the short shrift.

Workers have put in countless complaints about not getting paid to do various work: build the athletes’ village, hotels, roads, trams and lines, courses, and miscellaneous projects. There are approximately 700 workers who have claimed they haven’t been paid yet, with a list that dates back to October of last year.

But even as bad as that is, it’s sadly not the only issue behind the glittering curtain at these $50 billion Olympics. Some of the other infractions include:


  • Nonpayment of wages or excessive delays in payment of wages
  • Employers’ failure to provide written employment contracts or copies of contracts
  • Excessive working hours, such as 12-hour shifts without payment of overtime
  • Overcrowded employer-provided housing and inadequate employer-provided meals
  • Illegal withholding of passports and other identity documents

    And in a race to get the games done on time, Russia’s taken liberties with its other citizens and employees, particularly the ones in the village of Akhshtyr. The workers who were assigned to the games caused the village to lose its supply of drinking water, and had to absorb extra costs when 40 apartment dwellers’ homes were destroyed by construction.

    Along with the costs of actually putting enough in place that the Olympics were a go, money seems to have disappeared for employees’ wages, as well as relocating 40 residents of Akhshtyr into non-army style barracks. Those residents were promised remuneration for their losses, but that—like the employees’ wages—has yet to be seen.

    So no, it does not appear like the Olympics are profitable for the employees at all, if only because hundreds of them are missing paychecks for work they’ve already done.


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