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Interview with Dmitry Babich

Dmitry Babich, a political analyst of the Russian Profile magazine, joined Russia Today to take a closer look at the political implications and overall importance of Russia winning the Olympic bid.

Russia Today: According to Boris Gryzlov, the Speaker of the Russian State Duma, the country has many friends around the world and also the world is no longer a unipolar one. Do you think this is the correct reading of the result?

Dmitry Babich: I would certainly agree with the first part of the statement. Certainly, this event shows that Russia has many friends and to be frank with you whe I woke up this morning everyone around me was surprised. We are so used to be criticised; Russia is so used to be said: ok, you have to do this, you have to do that. So, this news came as a welcome respite for us. I think this is very good news for everyone.

RT: Now let's talk about President Putin and his participation in the ceremony to support Sochi. Do you think that his presence also contributed to Sochi's win?

D.B.: Certainly because Putin is one of the world's leaders and his face is easily recognisable. So when he came to Guatemala that was very clear indication that Russian state was serious about this project.

RT: So Vladimir Putin, as well as the rest of the government, they are going to resign pretty soon, in 2008. What about 2014? That means that we will have a new president and a new government. Do you think that they will also support Sochi?

D.B.: Well, I think that President Putin may return by that time back to power because there will election in 2012 so he will have time to get elected again. And secondly, you know, that federal programmes on developing Sochi – they have been already accepted and signed into action. Sochi is going to receive $US 7 BLN in government funding before 2014 . And that was scheduled even regardless of the results of the Olympic bid. So, the idea is that these $US 7 BLN of state funding will attract more private investment into the region. So the total cost of the federal programme is actually $US 12 BLN and for not very big town at the seashore this is of course a huge amount of money. I do not think that anything will change under any government. Sochi is already a national project.

RT: Is hosting the Olympics just a matter of prestige? Or, from your point of view, it also could be financially profitable?

D.B.: I would say that after Moscow and St.Petersburg Krasnodar region, of which Sochi is a part, is the third region in Russia in terms of investment and attractiveness. It gets more foreign investment than any other region except Moscow and St.Petersburg. And I would say it is very important because right now we have a pretty bad situation with foreign tourism in Russia. Most of the tourists come to Moscow or St.Petersburg and a few small towns on the so-called Golden Ring around Moscow. Sochi still has to be discovered as a year-round resort and I think that Olympic Games can be financially rewarding in that respect.

RT: So it is time for foreign tourists to discover and explore new areas.

D.B.: Exactly, and Sochi is not the only one of them. Russia is a huge country and certainly there are places to go.