IOC Vice President: no weak points in Sochi’s preparations

The IOC's Evaluation Commission for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games has finished its inspection of the Russian resort town of Sochi. The Head of the Commission, Chiharu Igayasaid there are no weak points in Sochi's preparations.

During their week-long visit, the Commission travelled around the town and surrounding area, inspecting projects and sites where future Olympic venues will be built.

On their last day in Sochi, the IOC members took a look at security, media and doping control.

Chiharu Igaya said Russia's bid received overwhelming support from the people and emphasised the might and strong Olympic spirit of Russian athletes.

“You have the tremendous government’s support, starting from President Putin to the Ministers, the Olympic Committee and Sochi citizens and athletes and this is one of the strongest points that I can mention,” he said.

Mr Igaya also mentioned the uniqueness of Sochi's bid.

“I think that Sochi presents a very unique bid, because normally Winter Olympic Games are held in really winter countries. Here you have palm-trees and then you can find yourself in deep snow.”

Furthermore, Chiharu Igaya said he does not see any particular weakness in Sochi's bid, but he pointed out some challenges facing the town. 

“There are some challenges that Sochi may face. There are so many facilities to be built in the future and you have only 7 years to go, so the time factor could be rather pressing and to co-ordinate all this work may be a great challenge,” he stressed.

Moreover, possible increase in prices and ecological problems are among the main concerns of the IOC as well as local residents of Sochi.

However, the Russian side reassures it is taking these concerns very seriously.

“Ecology is one of the main concerns when downhill runs and other sport facilities have to be built in the mountains of any country. A special environmental commission has been set up to monitor these issues. It is headed by Yuri Trutnev, the Russian Minister of Natural Resources. He and the Russian Economic Development Minister German Gref have held a series of important meetings with domestic and international experts at the request of President Vladimir Putin. No sport facility can in fact be built without the agreement of the commission,” emphasized Leonid Tyagachov, the Head of the Russian Olympic committee.

In addition, the Head of the Russian bidding team, Dmitry Chernyshenko, stated at the news conference that all Olympic construction plans are discussed with enviromental organisations.

“We are to release that not a single territory, which hasn’t passed through the procedure of compulsory environmental assessment, is under construction now. It means that not a single territory would be set under construction without passing a special procedure of economic and environmental assessment,” he stated.

Anyway, according to Mr. Igaya, these challenges are not a problem; it only means Russia will have to work harder. Leonid Tyagachov seems to quite agree with this opinion.

“There are a lot of challenges today. All we have so far are plans and drafts. We have to build a lot of facilities. It will a hard time when the actual construction starts. The process implies a lot of clean-up activities during construction. Authorities will have to keep the sites clean. It’s going to be difficult, even if you have money,” remarked Mr Tyagachov.

In the interview that he gave to Russia Today, Mr Tyagachov also elaborated on deadlines and other details of the Russian side’s attempts to put its ambitious plans into practice.

“A strict construction deadline has been set. The longest time required for the construction of modern sport facilities is 18 months rather than 7 years. It takes a year to lay downhill slopes and 8 months to install ski lifts. With a combination of all these factors, we will need 3 years to complete the construction of all the sports facilities. Other infrastructure such as roads, gas supplies or some underwater facilities is linked to sport only indirectly. The federal government program will be fulfilled 3 years before the actual start of the Olympic Games, while the sport facilities will be ready for use much earlier,” said Leonid Tyagachov.

However, the head of the Russian Olympic committee underscored Sochi has pretty good chances to host 2014 winter Olympics.

“I am happy the commission could feel we were sincere, presenting a modern high-quality project. The commission members liked all the drafts we showed them,” he claimed.

“The mountains around Sochi will help us to hold the games in style. And if you have the mountains, and the skiing courses there, it’s only a matter of money to build other venues, like the ice stadium or skating rinks. We have enough funds to build the facilities,” stressed Mr Tyagachov.

Aleksandr Tkachyov, Governor of the Krasnodar Region, where Sochi is located, also said that with the support of the government and funds from the budget any problem can be overcome. 

“As for the time factor, 7 years is a long period of time and the President and the government say we are ready to implement this project. We have a huge budget for that and a political will is also there. We will also draw private investors, which is the major thing,” he noted. 

The Head of the Russian Federal Agency for Sport, Vyacheslav Fetisov, praised Sochi's efforts in preparation for the Games.

“I would like to say that we thanked the Evaluation Commission in the name of the Russian government for the work that has been done here. We are also thankful to the media. Aleksandr Popov and me when sharing our opinions about the event concluded that even some Olympic games don’t get so much media coverage. It means that we’ve done a good work at the presence of the media,” stressed Vyacheslav Fetisov.  

In addition, one of Russia's most successful figure skaters, Evgeny Plyushchenko believes that Russia has a great chance to win the bid.

“We have a good chance to make these Olympic Games in 2014. We have a lot of good athletes and our country is ready to make it. We deserve it and we need it. I was in Sochi a couple of days ago and I skated for Russian people and for the Olympic Committee. I liked the town and I’m sure that we are ready for the Olympics,” he said.

“Of course, we need more sport facilities here. And I’m sure that if the Committee says that we've won the bid, we will do everything that is necessary to prepare Sochi for it. Same as Russia’s President said, that we would do everything for it. Besides that, we have a great budget for it,” Mr Plyushchenko noted.

Meanwhile, unexpected support for Russia's Olympic bid also came from neighbouring Georgia.

The president of the country, Mikhail Saakashvili, said a Winter Olympics in Russia's south might improve the image of the region as a whole.

“I really want Russia to get this right, and I whole-heartedly support Russia. The Olympics in the Caucasus, which has long been seen as unstable, will promote peace and understanding between nations,” stressed Georgia’s President.

Anyway, Sochi hopes it has done everything possible to show this is the gateway to the future 2014 winter Olympics. Now they have to wait till July when the winner will be announced in Guatemala.