SOCHI, Russia (AP) Getting Sochi ready for the 2014 Winter Games is a huge challenge because the Russian resort must build virtually all facilities from scratch, the head of the IOC’s coordination panel said April 22.
But Jean-Claude Killy, the French former Olympic ski champion, said he and other commission members were impressed by the initial preparations they have seen in their first visit since the Black Sea resort city was awarded the games last year.
Unlike previous host cities that have refurbished existing venues, Sochi — better known as a summer vacation playground than a winter sports area — must build all the venues needed for the Olympics as well as a great deal of infrastructure.
“It’s probably the most challenging Olympics yet as far as what has to be built,” Killy said at a meeting with the Russian organizers and Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov. “We have a lot of work to do together.”
Sochi beat out Pyeongchang, South Korea, and Salzburg, Austria, with a bid that cast the clean slate as an advantage and benefited from last-minute lobbying by President Vladimir Putin.
“These games have the potential to be truly magnificent,” Killy said. While he stressed that “much remains to be done,” he said commission members were “all very impressed by what we have seen.”
“I have every confidence that we will succeed,” he said.
Zubkov said preparations for the Olympics are “a priority of Russia’s leadership” and that the task of getting ready for the games would be “fulfilled 100 percent.”
“Sochi can be and will be a super-modern sports center and world-class resort,” he said.
The ice event venues, the stadium for opening and closing ceremonies and the main Olympic village, which are to be built on the Black Sea shore, are nothing more than plans on paper. In the mountains that rise to snowy peaks a few dozen miles away, work on skiing venues is a little further along — but not much.
The IOC visit comes just days after the head of the state corporation overseeing construction for the Sochi Games stepped down amid concerns that costs could spiral out of control.
A federal program foresaw spending of $12.8 billion to develop Sochi as a world-class resort area, but the Transport Ministry said in March that construction and transportation infrastructure alone would cost about that much.
The chairman of Russia’s Audit Chamber said that estimated costs had doubled from initial figures.
One of the factors that could drive up costs are demands for adequate compensation from residents whose homes will be destroyed to make way for the Olympics.
They are among the critics of the games, along with environmentalists who are concerned the Olympics will damage pristine wilderness in the Caucasus Mountains.