Vladimir Putin Arrives In Sochi As Accomodation Crisis For Journalists Continues
Russian President Vladimir Putin "has arrived in Sochi to welcome heads of state and top Olympic officials to the Winter Games," according to Roland Oliphant of the London TELEGRAPH. Putin will meet with IOC President Thomas Bach on Tuesday afternoon and "will hold a series of meetings with visiting world leaders in the next few days." The Kremlin said that it expects "more than 40 heads of state to attend" Friday’s Opening Ceremony (TELEGRAPH, 2/4). RADIO FREE EUROPE reported Putin said that the Winter Olympics will leave what he called "a grandiose imprint." Speaking at a welcoming ceremony, Putin said the Games had already had a big impact on the development of the area, making it "more beautiful, more comfortable." Putin said that the Sochi region's environmental conditions "had improved fourfold since the beginning of preparations for the Olympics" (RFE, 2/4).
HOTEL PROBLEMS: In London, Shaun Walker wrote a "distraught" journalist wailed, "Someone has been sleeping in my bed!" after "finally checking into his Sochi hotel room after a long journey only to find the bed already slept in, presumably by construction workers who were still rushing to complete the rest of the hotel." With numbered blocks and room fixtures still being put in place, the complex "is far from ready, though the games are to start this weekend." A receptionist said, "Your room is still under construction. They are literally finishing, the keys are literally coming now." As media from across the world streamed into Sochi, with just 72 hours left until the Olympic torch is lit and the Games officially opened, construction work that "should have been completed months ago was still underway." As the pack of int'l journalists settled down to work, the same receptionist "was asked for a wi-fi password by writers hoping to file their stories." She looked alarmed and said, "We have plans for the introduction of wi-fi in the rooms in the foreseeable future" (GUARDIAN, 2/4). THE ATLANTIC's Mark Byrnes reported persistent rain "is to blame for many of the delays." IOC spokesperson Mark Adams insisted that the construction woes "aren't as bad as they seem," telling reporters, "every Games has some last minute issues. These are being handled, and handled well." The organizing committee said that any media member given an unfinished room "will receive new accommodations" (THE ATLANTIC, 2/4).
LIGHTING THE CAULDRON: R-SPORT reported Putin "rubbished reports on the alleged identity of the athlete who will light the Olympic cauldron" at the Opening Ceremony. Well-connected Russian socialite Ksenia Sobchak, "once monikered Russia's Paris Hilton," had tipped Olympic Gold Medal-winning rhythmic gymnast Alina Kabaeva "for a role in the lighting of the flame." Asked whether he had heard the rumor, Putin said, "I'm aware of it. [Press secretary Dmitry] Peskov told me, but these are just more spoof stories." Kabaeva, now a member of parliament for the ruling United Russia party, "was once romantically linked by tabloids with Putin, who vehemently denied the alleged affair" (R-SPORT, 2/4).