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The Sochi Winter Olympics and Russia’s unique soft power strategy

Grix, Jonathan and Kramareva, N (2017) The Sochi Winter Olympics and Russia’s unique soft power strategy. Sport in Society, 20 (4). pp. 461-475. ISSN 1743-0437

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Abstract

According to Joseph Nye, who coined the concept of ‘soft power’, Putin ‘failed to capitalize on the soft-power boost afforded to Russia by hosting the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi’. With political volatility in the region throughout the year, Russia’s ensuing actions–culminating in the secession of Crimea–and its position over the armed conflict in Ukraine, certainly appear to bear this out. The Sochi Olympics were predominantly framed by the Western press as a Russian soft power quest and an attempt to obtain belated recognition as a great power. However, Sochi should be understood as a part of a wider package of ‘spatial governance’ undertaken by Putin’s regime. We argue that the Sochi mega-event is part of a wider soft power strategy–one which is not the same as, for example, the UK’s or Brazil’s use of such events. For Russia, international status means possessing both soft and hard power resources and being able to use them.

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