SOCHI, Russia — The absurdity of the juxtaposition of the festival of commercialism known as the Olympics, and the dacha of Stalin, a leader of the proletariat, was jarringly apparent at a security gate in the hills overlooking the Black Sea.
On a recent sunny day, a guard in military fatigues refused to let a visitor in to the summer home, which is now a museum. Calls to the curator offered no help. Then a tour bus packed with dignitaries from Samsung, the electronics company and Olympic sponsor, pulled up. They had rented the dacha for the afternoon, and no other visitors were allowed.
A champion of collectivism, Stalin undoubtedly would have frowned upon the renting of his summer home to a corporation.
But today’s Russia, under President Vladimir V. Putin, spent $51 billion to stage the Winter Games, a two-week extravaganza that provided a platform for corporations to wrap their sodas and cellphones in the feel-good cloak of international sports....