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IOC 'satisfied' by Sochi construction

2/14/2012

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia -- The International Olympic Committee inspection found "no real burning issues" in Sochi preparations for the 2014 Winter Games, with organizers promising to complete construction of all sports venues by the end of 2012.

The International Olympic Committee, which has monitored the building construction since Sochi was awarded the 2014 Olympics five years ago, said Tuesday that the multibillion-dollar project is going according to plan.

"We are very satisfied," IOC coordination commission chairman Jean-Claude Killy said after his latest inspection visit. "Two years are left, and these will be the most challenging two years. But we see no reason for concern.

"There are no real burning issues. The worries are the same as other Games, the same as for London and Rio -- transport, accommodation, security," the French ski great added, referring to the next two Summer Olympics. "(Construction) is being carried out on schedule."

Building is ongoing at the coastal cluster along the Black Sea, where the indoor sports will be held. There's also construction of a massive Olympic Village and the Alpine venues halfway up the mountain.

A rail link, new highway connection and new hotels and resorts are being built.

"All of the sport venues will be completed in 2012 and be ready to use by the end of the year," said deputy prime minister Dmitry Kozak, who is overseeing the Sochi project for the government.

IOC officials also met with Russian president Dmitry Medvedev.

"He told us this project is one of the top priorities of Russia," Killy said.

Killy, who was co-organizer of the 1992 Albertville Games and led the coordination commission for the 2006 Turin Games, suggested that Sochi surpasses anything he's seen.

He held up a blank, white piece of paper at one point during Tuesday's news conference to explain how Sochi "began with nothing."

All of the venues are being built from scratch in an area that was previously known only as a summer resort. In the Alpine area, a handful of new resorts are being built, and they eventually all will connect through an intricate series of gondolas, chairlifts and cable cars.

"They are showing the whole world what they are capable of," Killy said. "The IOC truly believes in the abilities of the organizing committee."

The construction budget for Sochi's Olympic infrastructure is about $6.5 billion, with more than half coming from private funding, Sochi organizing committee chief Dmitry Chernyshenko said.

More money is being spent to redevelop the entire region, while the operating budget for the venues and Games is about $2 billion, Chernyshenko said.

Kozak said the sliding center for luge, bobsled and skeleton will be certified in March. The track will be under scrutiny following the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili during a training run in Whistler just hours before the opening of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

More than 60 test events are scheduled before the Sochi Games. One test event, at the ski jumping venue, was moved because of construction delays.

The IOC described as "very successful" the men's World Cup Alpine ski races last weekend, the first major test event.

"The organization was very good, the athletes were satisfied and the International Ski Federation was also satisfied," Killy said. "Sochi has really put itself on the world map."

One of the few criticisms of the ski races was that the stands were half-empty, likely because of security, what with Medvedev in attendance. Kozak said that will change.

"Next year there will be no restrictions for spectators to visit all events, and we are sure there will be many more visitors," the deputy prime minister said.