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  • On the Scene -- Sochi's Great Construction Race


    Dmitry Kozak insists preparations are on the right track. (ATR/Panasonic:Lumix)
    The Russian government minister overseeing preparations for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics tells the IOC coordination commission visiting the Black Sea resort that work is on schedule and all sports venues will be completed two years before the Games.

    "We are positive all sports venues will be built by 2012 and we will ensure a high quality," Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak told the commission in opening remarks at the plenary session in Sochi Wednesday.

    At a cost of $13 billion, the Games is Russia’s largest investment project and Kozak restated the government’s full financial backing for the nearly 250 Olympics-related building schemes. "Despite the [economic] crisis, this financing is continuing to the full extent. It enjoys all the necessary guarantees and all necessary funds for implementation of the preparations."

    "We are optimistic about the participation of private investors in the Olympic project," he added, a response to the flurry of reports in recent months suggesting some private backers are seeking to withdraw funding support due to the recession.

    The commission led by Jean-Claude Killy kicked off its two days of meetings on the Olympic project at the luxurious Rodina Hotel in the Black Sea resort. All aspects of Games preparations are under scrutiny in the IOC panel’s second annual check-up since Sochi won the 2014 Olympics in 2007.

    Day one began with the plenary session at which Kozak, Sochi 2014 President Dmitry Chernyshenko and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov offered reassurances the organization of the Olympics was hitting all IOC master plan milestones.

    Notable by his absence from the session was Viktor Kolodyazhny, head of the state-controlled construction body Olympstroy, although his deputies were said to be present. Anatoly Pakhomov, officially inaugurated as the new Sochi mayor in a ceremony Tuesday, was one of the participants in today’s meetings.

    The bulk of the venues and infrastructure for the Games are being built from scratch. Olympic leaders again promised that all sports venues will be under construction by the end of 2009. Some mountain facilities in Krasnaya Polyana are well under way, but the Olympic Park at Imeretinskaya Valley where the main stadium, ice venues and the Olympic
    The IOC coordination commission chaired by Jean-Claude Killy begin meetings with Russia’s Olympic leaders at the Rodina Hotel in Sochi. (ATR/Panasonic:Lumix)
    village will eventually be located is currently little more than a wasteland with no major building activity.

    "We are fully prepared to launch a large-scale construction of Olympic venues. This will start in the summer," pledged Kozak, who is taking part in his first IOC coordination commission.

    Chernyshenko said Sochi 2014’s Olympic plans were "coming into life in every aspect of preparations."

    While the IOC was locked in meetings all day, 40 journalists and broadcasters embarked on a tour of construction sites in the coastal and mountain clusters where the sheer scale of the project was evidently clear. At various coastal sites and key transport hubs builders are working around the clock to transform Sochi into an Olympic city fit to stage the Games.

    The main road and rail links connecting Sochi with the mountain venues will only be finished in December 2013, less than two months before the Games open. The ambitious project, which includes 29.8 miles of rail lines and 27.9 miles of highway, is costing some $8 billion.

    Killy praised Russia's Olympic leaders Wednesday for forging a close working relationship with the IOC commission over the past year, saying it was key to the success of the entire project.

    Commenting on the election of new mayor Pakhomov, he said, "We are very happy to work with you and your team."

    Killy noted that Sochi 2014 organizers had achieved “significant progress” since the IOC delegation visited in April 2008, restating what he said then that the committee could not afford any delays to impact on the building timetable for the Olympics.

    He will give his final verdict at a press conference Thursday following the conclusion of further meetings.

     With reporting from Mark Bisson.
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