Russian Singer Pokes Fun at Sochi Olympics' Alleged Corruption


Alexander Rozenbaum is the latest performer to joke about the most expensive games ever.

MOSCOW -- A Russian singer-songwriter has become the latest performer to poke fun at the enormous cost of preparing for February's Winter Olympics, which the country is hosting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Alexander Rozenbaum, a 62-year-old guitarist and singer who is a frequent fixture at the country's annual Kinotavr film festival in Sochi, hinted at the rumored widespread corruption during a broadcast of popular television show Chto? Gdye? Kogda? (What? Where? When?)

Around half the official budget of $51 billion -- the most expensive Olympic games ever -- is reported to have been swallowed up by corrupt building contracts.

Performing a song from his current autumn repertoire at Moscow's Russian Army Theater, Europe's largest drama theater  -- which has a stage that at times has accommodated real tanks -- Rozenbaum alluded to the theft of public funds during the building of Sochi's Olympic infrastructure.

In a song entitled "On the Seventh Decade," he sings of "patient and short evenings" not because the subjects of his song are drinking the night away, but -- using a Russian slang word for cash -- because they feel "choked by the money shaved [away] in Sochi" by those whom the state awards with honors.

The show, broadcast last Friday on state-run Channel One, is one of Russia's longest-running game shows, having chalked up nearly four decades of transmissions.

It's not the first time satire has been used in relation to rumors of the massive corruption surrounding the Sochi games.

Last February in another long-running show, comedy series KVN, which also dates back to Soviet times, actors performed a sketch openly critical of the theft of public money by officials.

In a scene that had the live audience laughing out loud, a group of Sochi chinovniki -- Russian slang for high-level bureaucrats -- agonize over the discovery of 20,000 rubles ($6,250) that has somehow not been spent in a multimillion-ruble budget. They can't simply return it to Moscow, as that would raise suspicions. Various options are discussed by characters, who repeatedly vow that as honorable state employees they are above corruption.

To gales of laughter from the audience, those options include spending the money on luxury goods for themselves, throwing it out of the window or eating it.

In the end, they discover that one project was not completed, allowing them to spend money on that and report back to Moscow that the budget money was correctly spent.