Event summary: ‘Olympic-sized Corruption in Russia: ‘Sochi 2014’ and Beyond’


This is a summary of an event with Elena Panfilova, Director of Transparency International – Russia, on 4 February 2014.

To view a full transcript of this event, click here


On the eve of Sochi’s hosting of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, a number of important questions need to be asked regarding alleged corruption during Russia’s preparations for the Games.

Addressing an audience in the British Parliament, Elena Panfilova, Director of Transparency International – Russia, discussed the issue of corruption regarding ‘Sochi 2014’ and the thriving culture of kick-backs in Russia at a broader level. As a high-profile anti-corruption campaigner and practitioner, Panfilova stated that corruption associated with ‘Sochi 2014’ could only be understood by providing context about the situation in Russia as a whole.

Elena Panfilova argued that the scale of corruption in Sochi should not come as a surprise. In fact, it should be expected. It can easily be extrapolated to other regions in Russia with similar levels of expenditure. She expressed her hope to tackle future corruption with the help of both Russian activists and foreign NGOs.


Corruption associated with ‘Sochi 2014’:

  • The 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi act as a magnifying glass exposing systemic corruption in Russia.
  • Although many articles and other media reports carry facts and figures about alleged corruption, they do not address the roots of corruption.
  • Corruption in Russia is the focus of global attention only because of the upcoming Winter Olympic Games. Once ‘Sochi 2014’ is over, global attention will shift and the issue will be forgotten.


Corruption at a national level:

  • Russians deal with corruption on a day-to-day basis, not least with regards to housing, utilities and heating systems.
  • The Russian government is tightening regulations on NGOs, which makes it more difficult for such organisations to expose corrupt practices. At the same time, this action suggests that Russian NGOs are gaining increasing influence and are being taken seriously by the Kremlin.
  • It is difficult for NGOs and other anti-corruption campaigners to move from publishing their findings to actions resulting in arrests and court cases.


International cooperation as an anti-corruption tool:

  • International co-operation is key when fighting corruption in any country, not only Russia.
  • The international community is complicit with corruption in Russia as the proceeds of corruption do not remain in the country but are moved abroad. Foreign officials most often turn a blind eye to the questionable money invested in their countries.
  • Russia should learn from the UK about various aspects regarding NGOs, not least with regards whistleblowing legislation.

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