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  • On the Scene -- IOC Commission Leader Confident in Sochi Preparations


    Jean-Claude Killy says the size of the task facing Russia to prepare for the Games is “absolutely immense.” (ATR/Panasonic:Lumix)
     The head of the IOC Coordination Commission for Sochi says he is “not worried at all” about the massive construction effort required to build venues and infrastructure for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

    Jean-Claude Killy said “a lot of progress” had been made across the project since the commission visited in April last year.

    Speaking at the wrap-up press conference of the IOC panel’s two-day visit, he said the size of the task facing Russia should not be underestimated, adding that the work under way in areas such as transportation, infrastructure development and technological upgrades for the whole region was “absolutely immense."

    “I know I’ve said it before, but I’m going to say it again – time is not a luxury that we have to play with on this project,” the IOC member from France told reporters, echoing comments he made after last year’s commission inspection.

    Reassured by the Russian government’s support for the Olympics and “high caliber” Sochi team, Killy said he was confident they could maintain their ambitious schedule to deliver a “truly great celebration of winter sport” in 2014.

    Olympic Games Executive Director Gilbert Felli said the IOC panel “have not identified any areas of slippage” that were cause for concern. “There is a lot of work to do but we are on time.”

    Killy and Felli will deliver a similar message to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin at a meeting and dinner in the Black Sea resort Thursday night. Some other members of the commission who have not already left the city are also attending.

    “We see him every time we come [to Sochi],” said the skiing legend who visits for check-ups on 2014 preparations several times a year.

    “He is very much concentrated on the Games. He wants the Games to be a success and has given us all the tools to do that. The engagement and commitment of Russia is huge.”

    The IOC leaders were joined at the press conference by Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak, the man installed last year by Putin to ensure the success of the Games, Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov and Sochi 2014 President Dmitry Chernyshenko.

    Chernyshenko told Around the Rings that the two days of meetings had demonstrated the significant achievements made by Olympic organizers in the past year. He said a very comprehensive Games Foundation Plan, describing in fine detail all strategic goals to be delivered in the next four years, had been handed over to the IOC group.

    “The time factor is critical,” he admitted, “that’s why we should follow the advice of the chairman of our coordination commission not to lose a single minute. We are working hard day and night… but we are well on track.”

    Meetings this week covered every functional area of Games planning. Most of the IOC delegation, including Killy, did not go on a tour of Olympic sites. But the presidents and general secretaries of all the Olympic winter international sports federations were in Sochi with the commission and had the opportunity to visit sites Tuesday.

    Summer Construction

    Chernyshenko said the challenging timeframe for construction of venues and infrastructure had been widely discussed.

    Construction work on Olympic Park venues at Imeretinskaya Valley on the Sochi coastline gets under way in earnest this summer; all sports venues will be under construction by the end of the year.

    “This summer will be a key period,” said Felli, adding that it was a “big test” of the construction effort. Work
    Deputy PM Dmitry Kozak, Russian IOC member Vitaly Smirnov and NOC Vice President Victor Khotochkin were among those involved in meetings with the IOC panel in Sochi. (ATR/Panasonic:Lumix)
    at several mountain facilities in Krasnaya Polyana is already at an advanced stage.

    The IOC delegation heard at the opening session Wednesday that two more private investors have signed up to inject capital into projects in the coastal cluster.

    Chernyshenko told ATR, “If you come in June, already you would see the start of the foundations of seven venues [on the Olympic Park].”

    Killy and Felli return to Sochi in six weeks to see for themselves the work beginning at the site and to hold more meetings with 2014 organizers.

    Venues going up here include the 40,000-seat main stadium, Bolshoy Ice Palace for ice hockey, Olympic village and main press center.

    Kozak denied rumors that Viktor Kolodyazhny, head of the state-controlled construction body Olympstroy, had been fired from his prominent position in charge of overseeing construction preparations. Oddly, for such an important figure in Games preparations, the IOC did not get to meet with Kolodyazhny over the two days.

    The Olympics minister explained his absence by saying Kolodyazhny was on holiday. “He is still working on the project,” Kozak said.

    The Rosa Khutor ski resort in the Krasnaya Polyana mountains has been erected from scratch in the last year-and-a-half. (ATR/Panasonic:Lumix)
    2009 prices, the total cost of building Olympic facilities and related developments was confirmed at the news conference as $6.4 billion; about half of this is being funded by taxpayers with the remainder coming from the private sector.

    Questioned about the financing of the Olympic venture – one of the critical elements analyzed by the IOC group – Kozak said private investors “have confirmed their commitments.”

    He said the Olympics was a “very powerful instrument to sustain Russia” through tough economic times, adding that 8,500 people would be involved in construction work for the Games. There would be more demand for building materials and transportation services to boost jobs and lift the Russian economy, he added.

    “We regard this [the Olympics] as one of the most important elements to the fight the crisis in the Russian federation,” he told reporters.

    Kozak confirmed that citizens living in houses which need to be demolished to make way for Olympic constructions would be moved into new residential areas. The relocation program starts at the end of 2009. He said 25 families who had opposed the relocation package had been compensated.

    New Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov participated in meetings with the IOC this week after his controversial election victory two weeks ago. His opponents charged him with orchestrating a dirty election campaign, accusing the Russian government of bribery and voter harassment. Pakhomov will have a major say in how government money is invested to prepare the Black Sea resort for the Games.

    Killy insisted he was not concerned about the changes in leadership of the city over the past two years; several mayors have come and gone in that time.

    “We have spent some time with him; he is a very good man,” Killy told journalists. “We are expecting a lot from him because he has a lot to deliver for the Games as well.”

    Most of the IOC panel leaves Sochi Friday. After his involvement in IOC inspections of the four 2016 bid cities, a stop in London and now the Black Sea resort, Felli continues his globetrotting with a visit to Singapore next week for a check-up on preparations for the 2010 Youth Olympic Games.

    With reporting from Mark Bisson in Sochi.
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