Funny Money for Russia's Winter Olympics

The new 100 Ruble Olympic bank note being presented. YouTube screenshot.

The new 100 Ruble Olympic bank note being presented. YouTube screenshot.

Less than 100 days remain until the 2014 Winter Olympics opening ceremony. As the date gets closer more and more scandals are coming to light. The most recent one [ru] involves a new 100-ruble Olympic-themed banknote that the Central Bank released last week. 

At first Russian bloggers were enthusiastic about the new bill. Coins are often released to commemorate Olympic games, but this is one of the few times a note has been dedicated to the Olympics (China issued one for the Summer games in 2008). Unusually, the image is vertical rather than horizontal. On one side of the note there is a snowboarder, pictured in mid-jump. The image came from a contest sponsored by Russia’s Central Bank. The winner, whose drawing best represented the Olympic Games, was a student at Saint Petersburg’s Academy of the Arts, Pavel Bushuyev [ru]. 

Blogger Pavel Protasov congratulated Bushuyev on his victory, and commented [ru]:

Надеюсь, банкиры таки договорились с автором и даже ему что-нибудь заплатили.

Hopefully, in the end the bankers made an arrangement with the author and maybe even paid him something.

However, it did not take long for Russian bloggers to discover [ru] that this winning snowboarder image, now found on the new banknote, came from an Internet stock photo, StockExchange — the result ostensibly being plagiarism.

Screenshot of snowboarder photo on StockExchange.

Screenshot of snowboarder photo on StockExchange.

Blogger Andrey Malgin compared it [ru] to a similar incident [ru] that took place when the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow was being remodeled a couple of years ago.

Эпик фейл можно сравнить только с известным случаем, когда Юрий Грымов нарисовал для Большого театра роскошный высокобюджетный логотип, а потом люди нашли эту красоту в старом каталоге изображений Aridi, где он продавался всем желающим за 99 долларов.

This epic fail can only be compared with the notorious case when Yuri Grymov drew a luxurious, hugely expensive logo for the Bolshoi Theater, and then later people found the pretty picture in an old image catalog called Aridi, where it was sold to anyone who wants it for 99 dollars. 

However, photo blogger Ilya Varlamov defended Byushev and his sketch, saying [ru] that it's not that big of a deal, since the original is a photo:

Я вообще не понимаю, в чем проблема, что фигура сноубордиста срисована с фотографии? Как по мнению критиков надо было рисовать сноубордиста? Из головы придумывать? С натуры сидеть рисовать?

In general I don’t understand what the problem is, that the figure of the snowboarder was drawn from a photo? How, in the opinion of the critics, should a snowboarder be drawn? From imagination? From a model?

He added, criticizing the critics:

Вы вообще понимаете, как дизайнер работает? Ничьи права не нарушены, более того, если совместить 2 фигуры, то видно, что рисунок на банкноте не 100% копия… Совсем что-то граждане с этой олимпиадой тронулись. Такое впечатление, что где-то проходит конкурс, “найди больший позор для России”.

Do you even understand how a designer works? Nobody’s rights were violated, in fact if you combine the 2 images, you can see that the picture on the note is not a 100% copy… People are going downright crazy with these Olympic games. It seems like somewhere there is a competition to “find the bigger shame for Russia”.

As the Sochi Games edge closer, and the scandals keep piling up, is Varlamov right? Are Russian bloggers simply looking for an excuse to complain, or will Russia's hosting of the Olympics be a disaster?


  • Jim Holroyd

    Plagiarism seems no big deal in Georgia, either, I set an essay for my students’ homework and half the returned essays I find copied from wikipedia, the students at first deny it is copied from the internet and then seem shocked as though the wikipedia copied their homework.
    In the Universities here there is a big problem of Georgian qualifications being recognised outside the country as so much copying of other’s work happens.
    Whilst working at the French school in Tbilisi, one irate parent came in to defend his daughter who had been caught cheating in a test, the parent remonstrated “What you (the French) call cheating , we in Georgia call helping!”
    This can have serious implications, many doctors practising who qualified in the 1990s when corruption was rife, don’t know how to deal with a heart attack, heart disease being a common ailment here.

    • Nina Ivanovna

      Thanks for taking time to read and comment, Jim. I have also experienced some of this in my teaching career and have heard similar stories from friends and colleagues. This story was interesting to me because Bushuyev actually won a prize for his “work”. And he was not the only one, the Bolshoi Theatre scandal was also a big deal when it happened too. In addition, there is now a website that records which Russian public officials have plagiarised their dissertations, something that is rife in Russian officialdom.

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