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TEMPLATE ANALYSIS

The Winter games which are being held in Sochi next weekend, are the first Olympiad to be hosted in Russia since the Moscow Olympics of 1980.
On the surface, this is a clear statement from the Kremlin that Russia is back on the international stage as a Great Power.
The games are the most expensive in history – a staggering 50 billion dollars, some four times the budget of the highly controversial London games in 2012.
And the location within a stone’s throw of the unstable Caucasus is a signal to those intent on securing their freedom from Moscow that the issue is no longer under discussion.
What’s more, the Russia that President Vladimir Putin wants the world to see has taken ‘moral’ stands on a number of issues – gay rights, religious tolerance, even releasing political prisoners and naughty pop stars.
So, with a consuming Middle Class emerging in the former Communist empire has Russia turned a corner, has it left behind the chaos created by collapse of the Soviet Union?
Of course, all the progress made under the iron grip of the former FSB chief, is dependent on high oil prices, well above one hundred dollars a barrel, for other than that there is little else coming into the coffers to balance the books.
Under the Soviet Union, dependence on oil and gas exports accounted for 67 per cent of the budget, today it is 75 per cent with prices five times higher.
And as protests in the Ukraine and bomb attacks in the Caucasus have shown, any political stability in the Russian federation is tenous at best.
And it was not so long ago when Russian armed forces were being deployed in Georgia to sponsor the freedom of Abkhazia.
As a result, those who are claiming ‘Today Sochi, tomorrow the World’ may want to take a pause and look to the past for lessons.
When Soviet Union held the games in 1980, no one could have predicted its collapse some eight years later.
And yet all the ingredients that precipitated that huge geopolitical event are still there. Like the Soviet Union before it, ‘modern’ Russia is a third-world country with first-world military technologies that produces little other than caviar and vodka and that relies on extraction of gas, oil and minerals.
Scratch the shiny surface and bright lights of its capital Moscow and there’s little left to speak of.
So, Sochi may prove to be an expensive white elephant, one which a struggling economy can scarcely afford – and not a signal to the world that Russia is back