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Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Russia counts 500 days to Sochi Winter Olympics

Associated Press

MOSCOW -- Russia celebrated the 500-day countdown to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi on Tuesday with a series of nationwide events and the launch of a new slogan -- "Hot. Cool. Yours."

Sochi organizing committee head Dmitry Chernyshenko said infrastructure in the Black Sea resort is 70 percent complete and preparations are on schedule for Russia's first Winter Games.

"Sochi will be the showcase for Russia for the world to see," he told The Associated Press.

"Hot" refers to Sochi's climate, unusually warm for a Winter Olympic venue, and the passion for the games. "Cool" stands for the winter sports played and the cold weather commonly associated with Russia. "Yours" indicates organizers' wish that the event be all-inclusive.

President Vladimir Putin has made the Sochi Games a cornerstone of his third term. He views it as a key project for improving Russia's international image.

Around $30 billion has been earmarked for building facilities and developing infrastructure in Sochi -- parts of which were only single roads until a few years ago.

Right now, Sochi is "the biggest construction site in the world," Chernyshenko said.

More than 220 miles of roads and 125 miles of railway have been built for the games. Facilities in the mountains and along the coast will be tested this winter.

It marks the first time Russia hosts the Winter Olympics, although it is traditionally one of the strongest competitors.

Russians hope their athletes improve on their results at the 2010 Games in Vancouver, when they won only 15 medals and finished 11th in the standings -- the country's worst-ever performance.