Russia's former chess champion says Winter Olympics 2014 are all about Vladimir Putin's cult of personality – 'a one-man circus'
Vladimir Putin (right) waves alongside IOC president Thomas Bach at the opening ceremony of Sochi 2014. Photograph: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images
The former world chess champion and Russian opposition figure Garry Kasparov has launched a scathing attack on the Sochi Winter Olympics, comparing the event to Berlin's 1936 Summer Games in how it revolves entirely around the personality of one man.
Kasparov, a bitter rival of Vladimir Putin who has been detained during opposition rallies in Moscow, said the two-week event was all about Putin's personal glory in the same way that the Berlin Olympics exalted Adolf Hitler.
"Anyone who thinks that is an exaggeration is forgetting a very important factor. Hitler in 1936 was seen as a thoroughly respectable and legitimate politician," Kasparov said in an interview.
"Moscow (1980) and Beijing (2008) were games that authoritarian systems established to generate propaganda for their country and for themselves, the ruling party," he added. "Sochi, as Berlin, stands under a different sign: these are games which revolve entirely around a single man. In Berlin, it was Hitler. In Sochi, it was Putin. It's about a personality cult.
"For him it's about getting himself celebrated, making a legacy for himself," Kasparov said. "It's a one man circus."
But Kasparov said that though this may have worked in the 1930s, it would not work in the modern era. "What Putin has brought about is a poor imitation of 1936. His Olympic project will fail dramatically. If only because in Sochi a large part of the money did not flow into the Olympiad but was stolen by corrupt officials and businesspeople.
"Given all the problems and failings that we know of it's hard to believe that everything will go smoothly. I just fear that it might be a disaster. I only hope that nothing happens to the sportsmen and women. The logistics have been a catastrophe. Many hotels weren't ready as guests arrived. Putin must be quite shocked at the moment. Propaganda isn't as easy as it was in 1936, or even in Beijing in 2008."
He vilified the foreign dignitaries attending, who include the Chinese president Xi Jinping, Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Japan's premier Shinzo Abe and other Asian leaders.
"No upstanding politician can come to these games," Kasparov said. "Particularly interesting [is] the role of Thomas Bach, the president of the Olympic committee. He's a German and as such he should have learned something from history. Instead he's cosying up to Putin."
As for the sport, even there Kasparov couldn't resist a sideswipe. "Most of the gold in Sochi will go to Switzerland, but into secret bank accounts."