Picking up from Sochi 2014

By Jan Maceczek, in collaboration with Michael McAloon and Nat Cooney

While hosting the upcoming World Cup is a momentous undertaking, Russia is no stranger to being home to international sporting events. Just four years ago, Russia hosted the Winter Olympics in Sochi, the most expensive Olympics in history[1]. Permeated by numerous controversies, Sochi 2014 could foreshadow what is to come in this World Cup.

One of the most heavily covered topics by the Western media was the safety and human rights of the LGBT community in light of Russia’s “gay propaganda” laws. In June 2013, Putin signed legislation that proclaimed the “spreading of information directed to the forming in adolescents of non-traditional sexual arrangements” was a federal offence, punishable by fines between 4,000 and 1 million rubles (approximately $70 to $16,000) and imprisonment for a term of up to 90 days[2]. The controversy resulted in calls for sponsors to withdraw sponsorships, and several nations boycotting the games[3].

Furthermore, a massive state-sponsored doping program was uncovered after the Games. The program was meticulously planned for years and involved dozens of Russian athletes, including at least 15 medal winners. According to the testimony of Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, director of Russia’s national anti-doping laboratory at the time, “Russian antidoping experts and members of the intelligence service surreptitiously replaced urine samples tainted by performance-enhancing drugs with clean urine collected months earlier, somehow breaking into the supposedly tamper-proof bottles that are the standard at international competitions[4].” As a result of the doping scandal, Russia was stripped of ten medals and the top ranking in Sochi and banned from participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea[5].

Still, these controversies have largely lost public attention as new events take place and prior tournament concerns are forgotten[6]. Russia has already been forgiven for the most widespread doping scandal in history, facing only marginal and short-term consequences. In Sochi, activists took advantage of international media presence to expose Russia’s human rights issues. Still, the government was quick to resume its enforcement of anti-LGBT laws as soon as the games ended and the media’s spotlight went dim. During the World Cup, it would be fair to expect a similar trend, and the police will exert greater caution in handling foreign visitors and journalists. While the media’s return to Russia will again exploit dire conditions prevent in the nation, we should be hopeful that the impact is long-term.

Return to Corruption and Politics at the 2018 World Cup

How to cite this page:

“Picking up from Sochi 2014,” Written by Jan Maceczek (2018). Men’s World Cup 2018 Guide, Soccer Politics Blog, Duke University, https://wp.me/P2Bq6D-84s



[1] Tracy Holmes, “IOC ban on Russia raises questions for 2018 FIFA World Cup,” ABC, December 6, 2017, available at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-12-06/ioc-ban-on-russia-raises-questions-for-2018-fifa-world-cup/9231012.

[2] Bill Bowring, “5 reasons why Sochi’s Olympics may be the most controversial Games yet,” Jauary 31, 2014, available at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/31/sochi-olympics-controversial-5-reasons.

[3] Umberto Baccni, “Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics Top 5 Boycotts,” International Business Times, February 7, 2017, available at: https://www.ibtimes.co.uk/sochi-2014-winter-olympics-top-five-boycotts-1435447.

[4] Rebecca Ruiz and Michael Schwirtz, “Russian Insider Says State-Run Doping Fueled Olympic Gold,” The New York Times, May 16, 2016, available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/13/sports/russia-doping-sochi-olympics-2014.html.

[5] Anthony Halpin, “Russia Loses Sochi Olympic Crown as Doping Scandal Claims Medals,” Bloomberg, November 24, 2017, available at: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-24/russia-loses-sochi-olympic-crown-as-doping-scandal-claims-medals.

[6] Garry Kasparov, “Opinion: World Cup 2018 and the ugly side of the beautiful game,” ESPN, March 27, 2018, available at: http://www.espn.com/soccer/fifa-world-cup/4/blog/post/3427563/world-cup-2018-russia-is-the-ugly-side-of-the-beautiful-game-says-garry-kasparov.