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SBD/August 13, 2012/Olympics
Your Time Is Now: Sochi, Rio In The Olympic Spotlight As Both Face Issues
Published August 13, 2012
TAKING THE PROJECT UNDER HIS WING: Chernyshenko said Putin “considers this project his baby.” The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Sonne & Boudreaux write, “So close is Putin’s involvement that shortly after London’s opening ceremony, he told a Russian news agency that he’s familiar with the preliminary plan for Sochi’s opening show and hopes the event will be ‘no less beautiful.’” Still, there are many challenges for Sochi, including a “weakened Russian Olympic team that could embarrass the country at home, and the threat of terrorist attacks that have rocked Russia for over a decade.” The budget for the Sochi Games “is massive, some $18 billion.” Chernyshenko said that the organizing committee “will make a profit.” Security is “perhaps the most serious test,” as Sochi is “a few hundred miles from Chechnya, Kabardino-Balkaria and North Ossetia, republics in southern Russia’s Caucasus region that have faced violence for years.” Chernyshenko said that Russian security forces “are planning to reinforce natural protections provided by the mountains and sea” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 8/13). NBC News' Jim Maceda said, No one believes that Sochi won’t be ready to offer the world a knockout Winter Games. As one Olympic official put it, ‘It’s a no-fail mission.’ But there are real concerns: Sochi is just 300 miles from Chechnya and its unstable pockets of Islamist militants” (“Nightly News,” NBC, 8/12). The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Richard Boudreaux notes Russia's leaders “are counting on the 2014 Winter Games to boost national pride and international prestige.” But the “multi-billion-dollar effort is straining the host city's resources, environment and nerves.” Russian Olympic Committee President Alexander Zhukov acknowledged the preparations have caused "some dissatisfaction." But he added, "If you come to the park in Sochi and see how the Olympic venues look -- how the infrastructure looks, the trains, new roads, bridges -- you'll say that these games are a big plus for Sochi" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 8/13).
RINGS AROUND RIO: The AP’s Janie McCauley writes London’s show “will prove a tough act to follow,” but the ’16 Rio de Janiero Games “will be looking to dazzle the world with its beaches and breathtaking views while dealing with the daunting challenge of getting a city ready for the world's most sweeping sports event” (AP, 8/13). REUTERS’ John Mehaffey writes if Rio “delivers, the Games could then conceivably go to Africa, the final continent for the Olympic movement.” IOC Marketing Commission Chair Gerhard Heiberg said, "Rio is an experiment. It is new. They have never had such a big event in the whole of South America. They have to do a lot on the infrastructure side.” He added, "Hopefully it will go well, we think it will go well. If that is successful, I think the opening for going to Africa will be even bigger because you prove that in a developing nation it is possible. Why not 2024?" (REUTERS, 8/13). IOC officials yesterday said that ’16 Rio organizers “must finalize their budget as soon as possible.” REUTERS’ Karolos Grohmann noted Rio has “yet to announce a budget for the Games in four years time and there has been growing concern organizers were not proceeding as fast as the IOC would like.” IOC President Jacques Rogge said, "We are asking for the budget to be finalized as soon as possible. We are working together in the establishment of the budget" (REUTERS, 8/12).
FUTURE BIDS: In Toronto, Lesley Ciarula Taylor reported City Council member James Pasternak's “idea for the first binational Olympic Games in Toronto and Buffalo is gaining steam.” Pasternak “floated the idea in an interview about how Toronto could possibly afford to host an Olympics when the current London Games are costing $15 billion.” Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown on Friday said, “With the closeness of our two nations, it potentially raises the opportunity.” But Taylor wrote, “Flattered as he is, Brown laughed long and hard at the idea of splitting the cost of the 2024 Games with Toronto.” Brown: “Believe me, if I had $7.5 billion to spend, I would spend it all in Buffalo and not spend it to bring an Olympics” (TORONTO STAR, 8/11)....In Denver, John Meyer reports the USOC is “studying whether to bid for the 2024 Summer Games or the 2026 Winter Games.” A report is “due to the USOC board in December.” Denver Sports Dir Sue Baldwin said, "Our interest in pursuing a Winter Olympic bid remains high, and we will re-evaluate after the USOC finishes their process at the end of the year" (DENVER POST, 8/13).