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Russia: Sochi's Win Will Be Played 'For All It's Worth'

Arina Borodina (file photo) (RFE/RL) July 5, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- The overwhelming majority of Russian politicians and public figures have reacted with enthusiasm to awarding of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games to the resort town of Sochi. State television has been conducting a strident patriotic campaign around the decision. RFE/RL's Russian Service spoke with "Kommersant" television critic Arina Borodina.

RFE/RL: How would you describe the reaction to the Sochi decision?

Arina Borodina: Patriotic and rapturous. Maybe even a little too patriotic. Although in many respects such a reaction is fully understandable. I found [Duma speaker] Boris Gryzlov's reaction a little over the top [Gryzlov was quoted as saying the decision proves Moscow has allies with whom it can prevent the creation of a unipolar world], and it is true that television has been showing him a lot. But all the rest, in general, is very patriotic, very enthusiastic, but in my opinion, it is justified by such an event in the history of our country.

I think that this event plays perfectly into the hands of [President] Vladimir Putin and they [the state media] are simply going to play it for all it's worth. After all, as soon as the president arrived in Moscow, he spoke, against the background of the presidential plane, and congratulated all Russians on Sochi's victory -- said that in connection with it jobs will be created, that it is a socially significant idea. And all the television channels and all the news shows are broadcasting this and all the other politicians are joining in. To be honest, I think that now Gryzlov's rhetoric about how this isn't a unipolar world but a multipolar one, this will be played up to the fullest. Putin will use it to the full, and I think he deserves to since the lion's share of the success of Sochi's bid is due to Vladimir Putin's appearance, no matter how critically I may think of him.

We are talking about a truly significant event, one that every citizen of the country understands, no matter how poor and insecure. Of course, there are people who will say, "Why do we need the Olympics when we have unfinished roads, a lot of elderly people, poor people, and so on?" Of course. But the combination of this absolute fact and this propagandistic force, which is overwhelming.... Because what happened last night in the studios of Channel One.... Several [Duma] deputies and politicians who were there.... I have to admit that they all spoke about how only Sochi could win, but the rhetoric was such that...I felt sorry for my country and also a little embarrassed for those people.

RFE/RL: Why were you embarrassed?

Borodina: Channel One handled the event quite correctly. They worked in the studio non-stop and showed everything right up to the tallying of the votes. This is correct from the point of view of television. In such cases, television must work live and somehow keep up with reactions. But they invited into the studio two Korean girls who said that they were rooting for their country and how they saw on the news that the South Korean bid was among the strongest and how people were even betting on it. At which point the moderator Andrei Malakhov, in my opinion, completely unforgivably and improperly said that he doesn't know what news they were watching, that it must have been their news because our news wasn't showing anything like that, which was completely untrue, since that very show had clips from foreign news broadcasts, which was a correct approach. This was just boorishness, of course. Chauvinistic boorishness. Thank God last night they didn't spit on the West or make threats against America.

RFE/RL: This campaign connected with Sochi didn't just spring up overnight. It has been developing for several weeks, maybe even months. Everything was oriented toward Sochi winning. But what if Sochi hadn't won? There is a sort of feeling that the people who thought up this campaign would have known what to do. Do you have this feeling?

Borodina: Yes, definitely. I think that the majority of politicians -- not athletes, because I think the athletes yesterday acted in the most appropriate way -- but the politicians, and there were some governors, some Duma deputies, would have immediately launched tirades against all of Europe, against the IOC [International Olympic Committee]. I think the reaction would have been just the opposite. In some of the segments that were prepared, there were obvious "foundations" laid in case we lost.

RFE/RL Russia Report

RFE/RL Russia Report

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