TODAY | January 31, 2014
>>> now the opening ceremony of the winter olympics just one week from today an russian president vladimir putin is hoping these games will be one of his crowning achievements but some are questioning the massive $50 billion price tag for this event. nbc's chief foreign correspondent richard engel is in sochi this morning. richard, good morning to you.
>> reporter: good morning, savannah. make no mistake, we are guests at a vladimir putin 's olympics and they say a great deal about his character, his vision of the games -- and of himself. these are vladimir putin 's olympic games . he's inspected the stadiums. played hockey on the rink. tried on the uniforms. and personally led the campaign to convince the ioc to host the olympics in sochi in the first place.
>> russia is ready to host the winter olympic and paralympic games in 2014 .
>> reporter: but why? putin likes sochi . he works much of the year in the black sea town. it's far warmer than moscow, and unique with sea air right next to 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, race cars, explore underwater, ride bare cheffed. this pop song was a hit on the russian charts. it's called "i want a man like putin ." and a lot of russians want a friend like putin . according to opposition activists, many of the contracts for olympic venues were awarded to politicians and businessmen close to the russian president . according to research publish by a team of activists, the games cost almost $50 billion, including $9.5 billion for new rail lines, roads an tunnels between the olympic villages, built by the russian rail monopoly.
>> it's a kind of showcase resort for putin , one he's personally very fond of and i think he really wanted for personal reasons to bring the olympics there.
>> reporter: putin has denied that these games are all about him. but this family knows one thing for sure -- they lost their home because of the olympics . they showed me where it once stood. bulldozed to make room for sewer lines and some ornamental trees across from an olympic headquarters.
>> translator: they knew this was putin 's project so they did everything they could to build as quickly as possible without thinking of quality or human rights ," she said. the sochi games are most expensive ever, and perhaps no one has more riding on their success than vladimir putin . putin has acknowledged that corruption is "an unacceptable problem," and promised to fight it. matt, savannah, i guess we'll be seeing you here soon.
>> very soon, richard.