It's the final countdown for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi. Russia has come in for criticism ahead of the games, especially for its human rights record. Charges of corruption and criticism of massive scale building projects that harm the environment have tarnished the image of the Games. Will the Sochi Olympics nonetheless be a propaganda success for President Vladimir Putin?
More than 50 world leaders are expected to attend the event despite the criticism. And Putin has set an ambitious goal. In a press conference he promised that
participants, fans, journalists and TV viewers would see a new Russia. To reach that goal he invested 50 billion dollars and released political prisoners like former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky and the Pussy Riot activists ahead of the event.
But Putin's positions on the conflict in Syria and on Ukraine have cast a shadow on Russia's public relations push. Domestically Russia continues to suppress opposition. A controversial anti-gay law is still in place. And the conflict in the Caucasus has stoked fears of terrorist attacks and prompted extra tight security measures for the Olympic venue.
6,000 journalists are expected to be reporting in and around Sochi. Russia wants to shine in the media as well as in the medals table. But just days before the opening Russian athletes were suspended for failed doping tests. Sochi looks to be a tough tournament for Russia - in both sporting and political terms.
Are the Olympic Games a festival of humanity when the host nation has an autocratic regime and is stirring conflict? Can the Olympic ideal still have relevance when sporting aspects are overshadowed? Is it possible to hold such sporting mega-events without generating controversy and conflict?
Tell us your opinion: Sochi 2014 - The Propaganda Games?
MarkusSergey Lagodinskyi - was born in Russia and emigrated to Germany in 1993. He is a fellow with the Global Public Policy Institute, Berlin. Lagodinsky's areas of expertise include transatlantic relations, global security, and international law. He is a frequent guest and commentator on RTVi (a world wide Russian speaking TV network). Today he is working for the Böll-Stiftung at Berlin.
Wolfgang Maennig - Professor of economic policy at Hamburg University, the former Olympic rowing champion has maintained his links with the sporting world. The main focus of his work is the economics of sport, and he has published widely on the subject. He is often called upon toact as an auditor during preparations for large-scale sporting events, such as the upcoming 2006 World Cup.
Hans-Henning Schröder – he wrote his habilitation treatise in 1994 on Soviet defence policy. He has been at the Germany Institute for International & Security Affairs SWP since 2006. Since 2012 as head of the research group Russia/CIS. He teaches political science at the Free Universtity in Berlin and publishes the online magazine Russlandanalysen. His special interest is in societal change in Russia since 1991 and Soviet and Russian foreign and defence policy.