Rain or Shine, Putin Takes the Blame

File Photo of Sochi Olympics Banner Near Highway in Warm Weather with Vehicle and Cyclicsts Nearby

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Ivan Nechepurenko – SOCHI – January 28, 2014) It has been raining in Sochi for two weeks.

The rain isn’t expected to disrupt the Winter Olympics, which open Feb. 7 on the snow-covered mountains looming over this subtropical Black Sea resort.

But the rain is the subject of urban legend. Both good and bad weather is blamed on one man here, President Vladimir Putin.

“You will notice that it is sunny and nice whenever Putin is in town. Whenever he is away, it rains,” said Larisa Nukhalova, a real estate agent who moved to Sochi from distant Siberia for a single reason: its better climate.

But this week she is complaining about regular headaches, a pain that she attributes to the chemicals that the government uses to disperse clouds and thus prevent rain.

“You will remember my words when you will see how sunny it will be during the Olympics,” she said, her voice filled with confidence.

In Sochi, everything depends on the weather. If it weren’t for the subtropical climate, Russian grand dukes would never have built their summer residences on the Black Sea coast, and Josef Stalin would not have bestowed Sochi with the special status of “all-Soviet resort.”

Sochi residents worship the climate because it determines both their lifestyles and their incomes. They make most of their money during the hot summer months when tourists swarm here.

Now, in a rainy January ahead the Winter Games, the city is sedated. About half of the shops on the Black Sea coast are closed, just as they would be during any other January. Tourists are few, and the scores of young Olympic volunteers who have arrived for the games have neither the time nor the money to spend on entertainment.

Some observers, including opposition leader and Sochi native Boris Nemtsov, have criticized Putin for staging the event in a subtropical zone.

Putin has defended his decision by pointing out that many other Winter Olympics were held in weather conditions similar to Sochi and Sochi’s ski resorts are located in an alpine zone.

Regardless of Putin’s reasoning, Sochi residents seem to believe that the president could have held the games in a desert, given his ability to influence the weather.

Ashot, an IT specialist who installed the Internet at the Moscow Times’ Olympic bureau in Sochi, said it rained the past two weeks because too much water had accumulated in the air during the time of Putin’s last visit.

“Now they will allow it to pour down so he can come back,” he said Friday.

The rain stopped over the weekend, but there was no sign that Putin was in town. On Friday, Putin held several meetings at his Moscow area residence, and on Monday he traveled to St. Petersburg for events marking the end of the Leningrad siege in World War II.

Still people in Sochi credited Putin for the relief from the downpour.