Sochi is a city readying itself for the winter spectacle of the Olympic Games.
Construction works continue with just under three months to go until the opening ceremony, while locals continue to enjoy the subtropical climates of the Black Sea resort.
On the surface all seems fine and dandy but those who dare speak out against President Vladimir Putin’s pet project are likely to see a darker side to the Olympic hosts – especially if you are members of the foreign media.
Semyon Simonov from the human rights group Memorial said: ‘‘Of course, there is censorship going on. I don’t know what else to call it. The media here is directly censored. This tells us that our authorities don’t care about how the international society see their actions.’‘
One Norwegian television crew was arrested over the weekend by police on their return from filming Sochi’s struggling surrounding regions that have barely seen one euro from the staggering 50 billion invested in the Olympics.
Fingerprints were taken, equipment temporarily confiscated before the crew were interrogated by the police over their sources and their subjects of journalistic interest.
A German television team was also arrested for five hours just outside of Sochi last week before the German Embassy helped in their release.
Despite the historic budget to put on a great show in Sochi, environmental issues, controversial anti-gay propaganda laws, exploitation of guest workers and now what some believe to be police harrassment of the foreign press could lead to Putin’s pet project being eventually remembered for all the wrong reasons.