Many Russians say Sochi Games marred by corruption: poll

Team USA goaltender Brianne McLaughlin stretches before their women's ice hockey team practice at the Shayba Arena ahead of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics February 3, 2014. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Many Russians believe preparations for the Sochi Winter Olympics have been marred by corruption and do not want their country to bid to host a summer Games, according to an opinion poll published on Wednesday. The findings of the poll by the Levada research group were a damning verdict on preparations for the Olympics, even though President Vladimir Putin says there is no evidence of major corruption before an event intended to improve Russia's image. The poll found 47 percent of people believed the cost of hosting the Games, widely expected to pass $50 billion, has soared because funds have been embezzled or mismanaged. Only 22 percent said they believed officials or businessmen responsible for pilfering funds would be brought to justice after the Olympics, and 17 percent said they thought Russia had bid for the Games mainly to boost Putin's image. The poll, carried out from January 24-27 among 1,603 people, showed 43 percent oppose the country bidding to host a summer Games than those who support it - just 32 percent. Despite their misgivings over the preparations, the poll indicated most Russians were hoping their nation's competitors would do well in Sochi and only 14 percent said they were not planning to follow the Games. Putin hopes that hosting a successful Olympics will show how far Russia has come since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, but much of the publicity abroad has been negative in the run-up to the Games. A Washington Post-ABC poll showed 50 percent of Americans had a favorable impression of the Sochi Games but four in 10 had unfavorable views. The poll, published by the Washington Post, showed 53 percent of Americans had a favorable view of Russia's efforts to prevent an attack on the Games but only 27 percent had a favorable view of Putin. (Reporting by Timothy Heritage; Editing by Peter Rutherford)