The Olympics in Putin’s Russia – Ep 8


Photo Credit: Maxence Peniguet

The scale of Russian international influence has expanded greatly since the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Since that year, we’ve seen the invasion of Ukrainian territory in the Crimean Peninsula in 2014-15, increased border activity with Georgia enacted in the name of Olympic security, and later the Russian cyber interference in elections throughout Europe and North America. Each are important examples of Russian intervention close to home and abroad, with Putin’s Russia leading a campaign to expand the influence of the federation.

While examples such as the increased border presence with Georgia were enacted in direct response to the Olympics in Sochi, the 2014 sporting mega-event also importantly served as a platform for crafting particular messages of Russian international superiority and political intent. In this sense, Russia utilized the games as a perfect tool of “soft political power”. The opening ceremony, in particular, was designed to consolidate and express a sanitized narrative of Russia history stripped of its problematic periods, laying the basis for an idealized future of a rekindled Russian superiority.

In this episode of Somatic, we explore how these messages were curated through the Sochi Olympics in 2014, reflecting on what has occurred since the end of the games. The episode provides a critical lens through which to understand the potential effects of Russia’s second chance to host a major world sporting event in the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

This episode was produced in collaboration with researchers Stanis Elsborg and Andreas Juul Jeppesen, who began to research this topic while studying at the University of Copenhagen. You can find out more about Stanis’ ongoing, fascinating research and work at his website:

For an additional resource on the socio-political impacts of the FIFA World Cup in Russia, visit:

Sound/Music Acknowledgements: Some of the music pieces in the episode include sounds downloaded from Freesound, a wonderful archive of various sound clips maintained by the Music Technology Group of Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain.  The specific sound clips incorporated in the episode can be found here and here.

Additional music included Soviet March by Shane Ivers that can be found at: