Putin reputation riding on Olympics
Richard Engel/ NBC News
With the Winter Olympics in Sochi just a week away, some are questioning the games' $50 billion price tag, and what's at stake for Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
Putin likes Sochi. He works much of the year in the Black Sea town. It's far warmer than Moscow and it's unique with sea air right next the mountains. Putin also likes to associate himself with sports. It fits his image: a man who can meet world leaders, but also: flip his opponents.
According to research published by a team of activists, the games cost almost $50 billion, including $9.5 billion for new rail lines, roads and tunnels between the Olympic villages: Built all by the Russian rail monopoly.
Ed Lucas, a Russian observer, said, "It's a sort of showcase resort for Putin, one he's personally very fond of, and I think he really wanted to, for personal reasons, to bring the Olympics there."
Putin has denied that these games are all about him, but the Samokhval family knows one thing for sure; They lost their home because of the Olympics. They showed Engel where it once stood. Bulldozed, to make room for sewer lines and some ornamental trees across from an Olympic headquarters.
The Sochi Games are the most expensive ever, and perhaps no one has more riding on their success than Vladamir Putin. Putin has acknowledged that corruption has been an "unacceptable problem" and promised to fight it.