This article begins with an analysis of Boris Nemtsov’s critical contribution to the Sochi Olympics debate and then projects it onto a wider discourse about mega-events in Russia. Being a native of Sochi, Nemtsov followed the issues related to its transformation into an Olympic city, and even ran for mayor in 2009. In 2013 he co-authored a widely circulated report, “Winter Olympics in the Sub-tropics,” in which he raised substantial issues about transparency and accountability that remain relevant after the Olympics. Nemtsov’s analysis remains an important reference point for critical discourses that put an emphasis on corruption, mismanagement and societal risks associated with global sports events in authoritarian countries. In conclusion, the authors examine the plethora of critical Olympic discourses related to the nature of the current political regime in Russia as well as the policies pursued by global sports institutions.