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SBD Global/February 18, 2013/Olympics

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

The 2014 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 Sports Illustrated. 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.” 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).
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