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‘Medals’ for corruption

A slick new English-language website dedicated to the imminent Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, launched on Monday, is packed with fascinating information, easy to navigate graphics and evidence of a sense of humour.

There’s just one problem for the organisers: the site was put together by Russia’s leading opposition politician and exists to help readers to “learn who cashed in on the most expensive Olympics ever”.

The Games in Sochi begin on February 7, after a build-up dogged by accusations of rampant state corruption and embezzlement. kAlexei Navalny, an anti-corruption campaigner who ran for mayor of Moscow last September, has used the new site to combine data gathered during his own investigations with media accounts and other activists’ reports.

According to Mr Navalny’s “Encyclopaedia of Spending”, the athletes are not the only people who compete: “Officials and businessmen also took part in the Games and turned them into a source of income.”

His site honours five “champions of corruption”, including President Vladimir Putin, who is accused of lying about the actual cost of the project when he claimed last April that it was $ 6.5 billion. Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation estimates that the actual cost has been $ 45.8 billion, nearly all of it from state funds.

Other businessmen are awarded satirical gold medals for enriching themselves, while the site also provides a venue-by-venue guide to cost overruns. Putin has rejected the claims. “So far we haven’t seen anything except speculation,” he said recently.