SOCHI, Russia -- If Oleg Deripaska looks like the lord surveying his manor as he points out buildings in Sochi, Russia, it's because that's what he is. Deripaska is a pedigree oligarch, a favorite of Vladimir Putin's who made his money in metals, construction and transportation. He was once said by Forbes Magazine to be worth more than $16 billion.
He says he put $1 billion of his own money into the Sochi Olympics, part of the shockingly large public and private investment made in the games.
Asked if reports that $50 billion was spent on the Olympics, Deripaska says with a laugh, "I would wish."
"No, you know, the number's maybe in the range of 26 to 29 (billion)," he adds.
Whatever it cost, the oligarchs flocked to the Olympics for two good reasons. The instant Olympic city was also an instant show-and-tell for how Russia works these days. Friends of Putin were "invited" to put money into the venues, and friends of Putin thought they may as well make a little money from the venues -- maybe.
According to Russian opposition groups, each venue tells a story of big money gone astray. The Bolshoy Ice Dome hockey rink was built by Vyacheslav Dvorakovskiy and somehow cost more than $300 million -- two-and-a-half times what it should have.
The $30 million Ice Cube curling venue was built by the family of Dmitry Svishchev, who happens to be the president of Russia's curling federation -- and built with government loans now thought to be uncollectable.
But if you ask Oleg Deripaska, who prepared the site and built the Olympic village, the lost money wasn't stolen, it was merely wasted.
"Of course money was wasted, because there was not enough time for preparation for mobilization of resources," he says.
Given the huge overspend, there's some doubt all of the oligarchs will ever see their money back. Maybe that's why some seem to have taken their profit up front.
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