At Sochi’s Olympic Park last week workers "furiously painted, planted and hammered," according to Courtney Weaver of the FINANCIAL TIMES. They "laid fresh asphalt in the pouring rain and when it was ruined they re-laid it." Inside the Olympic Park, corporate and country-themed pavilions "were miraculously taking shape within days, or even hours." Former German Reich Chancellor Otto von Bismarck once remarked, “Russians are slow to saddle the horse. But they drive fast." True to form, the last-minute preparations "suggest as much." They are "also a lesson in Russia’s love for superlatives." The Games, for both Russia and President Vladimir Putin, are, of course, "much more than a sporting event." More than 20 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Kremlin "is anxious to show it can still triumph on the world stage." Sochi doctor Lyudmila Kalinina said, “Russia wants to do something that [will] make people go: 'Wow!'" Russia "is not one to do things by halves." Kalinina: “When they do something, they do something. If you’re going out on the town, you really go out on the town.” Others "are less pleased." The Russian saying, “We tried our best, you know the rest” is "a frequent grumble among locals" (FT, 1/29).
Manufacturers said on Wednesday that medals for the Sochi Olympics "can survive extreme heat and eight tons of crushing power," less than a year after shattered medals "caused red faces" at a major Russian sports event (R-SPORT, 1/29). ... An express railway linking Beijing and the northern China city of Zhangjiakou "is expected to begin construction in 2014 and be completed in 2017." The 174-km-long line "is a cutting-edge advantage for the two cities to bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics" (XINHUA, 1/29). ... North Korea "plans to dispatch a political delegation to Russia" to attend the Sochi Olympics, even though its athletes are barred from competing as “wild cards” (KOREA TIMES, 1/29).