In just a couple of weeks, the 2014 Winter Olympics will commence at the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Russia's southwestern border. At that point, an estimated $51 billion will have been spent on preparing the city and its surrounding area for the influx of athletes, spectators, and ongoing tourism that is expected to follow. Such grandeur of spending and development, argues The New York Times, hasn't been seen in Russia since the pre-Gorbachev days of the Soviet Union, and the catalyst behind it all is predictably enough the country's leader, Vladimir Putin.

By way of comparison, the Times cites China's summer olympiad in 2008 as the nearest competitor, coming in at roughly $40 billion, but the real eyebrow raiser is when you compare the 2014 Winter Games to their 2010 precursor: Vancouver is estimated to have spent around $6 billion on hosting the competition.

With plans for Sochi to serve as a venue for both the Russian Formula One race and World Cup matches during the 2018 tournament, the vast investment can be justified along multiple practical lines, though it ultimately appears an ideologically motivated effort to demonstrate Russia's enduring strength. As such, it's in keeping with the $50 billion space program that Putin announced back in April of last year, showing a country more willing to sacrifice money than pride.