SBD/February 15, 2013/Olympics

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  • Small Capacity At Sochi Venues Could Be Issue; Russian Oligarchs Fund Balooning Costs

    Bobsled and skeleton athletes are upset over the ice conditions in Sochi

    The ’14 Sochi Games are less than one year away and the venues, though “dazzling and purpose-built, have strikingly modest capacities,” according to Alexander Wolff in an Olympic-venue profile piece for SI. At the Bolshoy Ice Dome, the main hockey arena, there are “only 12,000 seats.” Capacities at the Sochi venues are so small "that organizers are weighing the pleas of international federations to expand them.” It is “almost as if the goal were to build a studio set for international TV.” The latest estimate for the cost of the Sochi Games is $50B, up from $12B. That would make these games “the most expensive Olympics in history, inflated not only because of the need to fill that blank canvas but also because of wide-spread corruption.” Russia President Vladimir Putin has “leaned on Russia’s oligarchs to bankroll much of Sochi’s new infrastructure, and executives at state-owned companies such as the oil giant OAO Rosneft and the country’s largest bank, Sberbank, have helped Sochi collect more domestic sponsorship revenue than any previous Olympics, winter or summer.” EPL club Chelsea Owner Roman Abramovich is “building hotels and infrastructure around” the area. Meanwhile, Sochi organizers three years ago “began stocking away in vast crypts some 195,000 cubic yards of snow, chemically treated so it loses only a fraction of its volume.” If that reserve fails, more than “400 snow guns, capable of producing at temperatures up to 50°, line the Olympic Alpine courses.” The snow guns reportedly cost $42,000 and look “like a jet engine” (SI, 2/18 issue).

    ROCKY CONDITIONS: The AP’s Tim Reynolds reported bobsled and skeleton athletes are “upset over ice conditions at the track that will be used" for the Sochi Games. The issue is “not about speed, safety or design -- everyone's satisfied with those elements -- but rather, how the ice is being maintained.” U.S. slider Noelle Pikus-Pace said, "It's so bumpy out there. There's actual concrete in the outrun. It just isn't ready for us to slide. The track is a mess." Canadian slider Eric Neilson “turned to Twitter to express his frustration.” He wrote, "This trip here has turned into a joke really. Where are the hidden cameras?" Still, bobsled and skeleton's governing body, the FIBT, has “no plans to cancel this weekend's World Cup event” (AP, 2/11). USA TODAY’s Rachel George wrote the cancellation of an FIS slopestyle World Cup event in Sochi “has done little to ease concerns." However, FIS officials said that they were "working to reschedule and give athletes the opportunity to offer feedback” (USA TODAY, 2/13).

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