It began with a speech on 4 July in 2007 in Guatemala and it will end with handshakes, disappointment, joy and presentation of a small gold trophy in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium on 15 July 2018.
Russia’s "Decade of Sport" might have worked out okay for the man who delivered that speech in heavily-accented English in the Central American backwater: President Vladimir Putin, progenitor of New Russia, looks as securely ensconced in the Kremlin as ever, more than 18 years after he first moved in.
But for the world of sport, first and foremost the International Olympic Committee (IOC), it has been little short of a disaster, a cautionary tale illustrating the wisdom of that homely but time-honoured dictum about not putting all your eggs in one basket.
If you have not done so recently, it is worth listening again to that short, almost deferential Putin speech on behalf of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic and Paralympic bid, delivered in the Americas on United States Independence Day. The speech and early reaction to it encapsulate perfectly how comprehensively times have changed in the space of just eleven years.
Putin’s cleverly-judged and workmanlike performance transports you back to an era when IOC members were the masters of the universe. Wrestling with unfamiliar vowels and alien sentence structures, one of the world’s most powerful men deploys artful appeals to the members’ sympathy and lavish, boom-time promises in pursuit of what is not even the most glittering prize his audience has in their gift.
The "$12 billion" Sochi Olympic cluster would be completed on time. Guaranteed. Seven in every 10 participants would be housed within a five-minute walking distance of competition venues. A list of "special privileges" for participants and guests was being worked on. But remember, Russians "have not yet had the honour to celebrate the Winter Olympics". Moreover, after the break-up of the Soviet Union - "would you believe it?" - Russia lost all mountain sports venues.
"Russia has risen from its knees!"German Gref, Economic Development and Trade Minister, was quoted as saying after Sochi had won the day over Pyeongchang - and Salzburg - by four votes, in a ballot that must still haunt some of those who participated in it. "Let the Gains Begin" was the title of an Alfa Bank note to investors cited in the New York Times.
Actually, just the previous month, median, single-family house prices had peaked in the US, anticipating the bursting of a bubble that would lead to the financial crisis from which the Western world - never mind the business of staging sports mega-events - has still not fully recovered.
Though we did not realise at the time, the dawning of Russia’s Decade of Sport - which was also to take in a World Athletics Championship, a World Aquatics Championship, inauguraton of an annual Formula One Grand Prix, the SportAccord Convention and a host of other pinnacle single-sports events - coincided perfectly with the beginning of the end of the Modern Olympics’ first business/media-fuelled golden era.
It is the growing disparity between Putin/Sochi’s lavish promises - which then had to be delivered over the following seven years, while initially also raising the bar for subsequent Olympic bidders - and the prolonged liquidity crunch facing ordinary people in the industrialised West that has been responsible primarily for the first element in the toxic legacy this Russian decade is leaving behind.
This is best summed up by a single, extremely large, number: $51,000,000,000.
This, so everybody thinks they know, was the cost of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics and Paralympics.
Four-and-a-half years after the extinguishing of the Olympic Cauldron on the shores of the Black Sea, it is still easy to find people in the Olympic capital of Lausanne who wince at the injustice of this indelible price-tag, which might perhaps be an early example of "fake news".
After all, whether or not the figure bears any relation to reality, most Sochi money was spent not on the Games themselves, but on the general infrastructure necessary to transform an obscure Black Sea town into a modern, year-round resort.
As Putin touched on in his speech, strategically, this made a fair amount of sense for Russia; and augmenting Russia’s credentials as a market for winter sports made a fair amount of sense for the sports movement.
No matter: the legacy of that fat figure has been paradigm-shifting – and not in a good way, since it has undermined demand for hosting the Games.
When that contest for the 2014 event got under way in 2005, the Olympic Games was as sought-after as tulip bulbs in 1630s Europe or Bitcoin a few months ago. The event was the must-have accessory for any self-respecting global city.
These days, cities are more than likely, if and when their inhabitants are offered a say in the matter, to turn their backs on the opportunity to make a bid for the Games.
"No" votes in referendums have become particularly common in Europe, the continent that has been the epicentre of the Olympic Movement throughout its modern history. In the latest example, voters in part of the IOC’s host nation of Switzerland turned down the chance to stage the 2026 Winter Games. And while the IOC has succeeded in placing the next three editions of the Summer Olympics in world cities of the stature of Tokyo, Paris and Los Angeles, such was the concern for 2028 if the two remaining candidates for the 2024 Olympics - Paris and Los Angeles - had been allowed to pummel one another into submission that it was decided to gift that 2028 event to the US city uncontested.
It is possible to construct an argument to the effect that the stuttering global economy may also have been a factor in the other acutely damaging aspect of the legacy of sport’s Russian decade. Perhaps the hardships experienced by ordinary people, including in Russia, and the contrast between this austerity and the millions being spent on sport ratcheted up the pressure on Russian athletes and the sport sector as a whole to make sure they crowned this period as the world’s pre-eminent sports host with success.
But the shadow cast by widespread doping by Russians (and others) in recent times has already impacted the legacy of four Olympic Games in different ways – and we cannot yet be sure that a fifth edition, Tokyo 2020, will escape unscathed.
While one would hope that exposure of the inadequacy of worldwide anti-doping measures will eventually have a positive impact by paving the way for a better system, the short-term political fallout from attempting to respond to Russian transgressions has been hugely damaging.
The IOC and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) have been repeatedly at odds and, now it seems the IOC and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) are as well. At any rate, the IOC confirmed in May it plans to appeal a CAS decision to clear 28 Russians accused of doping to the Swiss Federal Tribunal.
Meanwhile, the corrosive mood of public cynicism that has enveloped sport - some sports more than others - has been exacerbated both by the extraordinary allegations levelled by Grigory Rodchenkov, the former Moscow Laboratory director now in witness protection in the US, and by questions over the application of the regime of therapeutic use exemptions, intended to permit athletes disadvantaged by medical conditions to take otherwise banned medicines to treat them.
Sport is finally starting to put the destabilising consequences of this period of intense collaboration with Putin’s Russia behind it. Notwithstanding the wrangling that characterised the recent WADA meetings in Montreal in May, we appear to be edging closer to the sort of accommodation that will permit the normalisation of sporting ties with one of the planet’s great sporting nations. The increasing number of Russians and Russian allies sitting in prominent positions on international sports bodies, as highlighted by the latest edition of the Sports Political Power Index might actually help with this process.
Winter sports have switched focus to China, which seems sensible in a strategic sense, even if it is impossible to say how long-lasting the fondness for snow and ice sport that Beijing 2022 seems certain to inculcate among the growing Chinese middle classes will prove to be.
The Summer Olympics, as touched on above, have already been parcelled out to strong partners in three different continents for the whole of the next decade.
Demand for the next FIFA World Cup on offer - the centenary 2030 edition - also looks set to be adequate, with potential bidders from Europe, South America and Africa all on the horizon - even if the legacy of the ill-conceived 2018/22 World Cup voting process for the organisation has been dire.
But, goodness me, what an unholy mess this extended and frankly ill-advised dalliance with one of the most feared and cunning of all world leaders has provoked!
Perhaps the overriding lesson from sport’s decade of devotion to Putin should be that the sector ought better to coordinate the placement of upcoming events.
Just as no investment manager worth their salt would concentrate funds under his or her management in a single stock or asset class, sports leaders should ensure that they spread their highest-profile events around to avoid undue exposure to a single national leader or country. This makes all the more sense at a time when mature liberal democracies seem more reluctant to shoulder the burden of multi-sports competitions than at any time in the recent past.
However prudent such an approach sounds, though, implementation would not necessarily be easy in practice: presidents and potentates intent on deploying sport for nation-building purposes, and perhaps to consolidate their own grip on power, will often make the most tempting offers. Meanwhile any new-built Olympic or other multi-sports constellation becomes an obvious candidate to stage future single-sport world championships or similar.
Even so, if sports leaders are to take one lesson from this decade of Putin - even allowing for the rather pleasing football World Cup that Russia has so far laid on - it surely has to be that when it comes to partnerships with national leaders, promiscuity should be encouraged.