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SBD/February 7, 2013/Olympics
One Year Away From Start Of Sochi Games, Pricetag For Russia Already At $51B
Published February 7, 2013
CONSTRUCTION ZONE: Sky Sports' Geraint Hughes noted that 10 of the 11 "venues being used for the Olympics are built," but there is "still much to do and time is running out." The "two areas being used for the Games are enormous construction sites," and the distance between Sochi to the mountains is a "challenging two-hour drive." However, a new "50-kilometer railway and road is being built" (SKYSPORTS.com, 2/5). NBC's Ben Fogle said of the remaining construction, "It's all hands on deck as they work around-the-clock to get things done on time." NBCSports.com's Alan Abrahamson: "It is a work in progress. It is still very much a heavy construction site, (but) they will get it done. This is not Athens. This is not like any place you've ever been. They will get it done" ("Today," NBC, 2/6). Russian Life magazine Managing Editor Maria Antonova said, "They'll finish on time just because there's so much at stake in the government." Russia President Vladimir Putin "will do whatever it takes pretty much to make sure they do happen" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 2/7).
ROGGE PLEASED WITH PROGRESS: The AP’s Victoria Buravchenko noted IOC President Jacques Rogge yesterday “praised Sochi organizers” and “defended the $51 billion price tag.” Rogge said that he was “impressed by the preparations for Russia’s first Winter Olympics.” He said, “The site is very compact, it’s high quality and is situated in beautiful surroundings.” Rogge added that a “great deal of the money is going to infrastructure projects, including new roads and railways, which will serve the development of the entire region for decades to come.” He said, “You cannot just take the cost of the train and the tunnels and the road into the cost of the games because this tunnel and the train and the road are not meant for two weeks of competition, they are meant for generations to last” (AP, 2/6).
WEATHER ALERT: In DC, Kathy Lally notes whether it will "snow has been an underlying concern for the Olympics." Sochi is the "warmest place in Russia, a palm-fringed city that runs 25 miles along the Black Sea." Tuesday morning it was "54 degrees, and the day before it was around 60." Of course it is "colder in the mountains, some of which rise 8,000 feet, and it regularly snows -- but regularly enough?" However, snow was "dodgy in Vancouver in 2010, and life went on" (WASHINGTON POST, 2/7). In Chicago, Philip Hersh notes there were "substantial weather issues in Vancouver (2010) and Nagano (1998), causing postponements, but the events eventually took place." U.S. bobsledder Steve Holcomb yesterday from Sochi said that it was "warm at the track but it is refrigerated and covered so there were no problems" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/7). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Rachel Bachman noted Australian snowboarder Torah Bright was "planning to compete this Sunday at a test event at the Sochi snowboard venue in slopestyle," but the event was "canceled due to warm temperatures and a lack of snow." The forecast for Sochi this weekend is "for highs in the low 60s." The city has a "humid, subtropical climate, with an average February high of 49 degrees" (WSJ.com, 2/6).
PUTIN'S PET PROJECT: In N.Y., David Herszenhorn notes the financial investment in the Games “reflects the outsize ambitions” of Putin, who has “made the Olympics a pet project.” Though he “expressed some concerns about cost overruns in the mountain events, there is no doubt that a certain amount of exorbitance and grandiosity have been part of his plan from the beginning.” Parts of Sochi “look less like a postwar reconstruction zone and more like the target of a sustained assault by rampaging aliens.” In some places, “cavernous pits open deep into the ground.” In others, “unfinished elevated train tracks halt in midair.” While Putin has “embraced the role of host to secure Russia’s place on the world stage and add yet another chapter to his legacy, his critics see Russia’s role as inviting international scrutiny on issues like human rights and civil liberties.” The Games also “pose serious security concerns, largely because of neighboring Abkhazia, a disputed territory that has sought independence from Georgia, and the North Caucasus, a hotbed of Islamist insurgency” (N.Y. TIMES, 2/7). Meanwhile, the BBC's Bill Wilson noted Sochi organizers said that not only are "preparations on track but that the event will introduce some important 'firsts' to the country." These include "better access for and acceptance of people with disability, greener standards of construction, and the growth of a volunteer programme in a country not known for this sector" (BBC.co.uk, 2/6).
IT'S WORTH A SHOT: In Milwaukee, Don Walker noted Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak this week said that he "thinks Minneapolis would make a fine locale for the 2024 Summer Olympics." Rybak concedes the idea "is a long shot," but he wants to "explore the idea further" (JSONLINE.com, 2/6).