Nervous wait for Sochi
The International Olympic Committee has begun its 119th session in Guatemala, and will announce its decision on July 4, 1700 Guatemala time (it is July 4, 2300 GMT and July 5, 0300 Moscow time).
The bid team's final presentation will last for 45 minutes each – Sochi will be first, then Salzburg and finally Pyeongchang. A fifteen-minute-long question session will follow. After that the head of the violations commission will give a report.
The election and the announcement ceremony of the host city for Winter 2014 Olympics will be broadcast live on Russia Today.
There appears to be no hot favourite, as all the three cities scored exactly the same number of points in a recently published ranking.
Russia's bid team is focusing mainly on the way which the potential Olympic sites will be laid out into the two clusters ? one up in the mountains, another on the Black Sea coast, separated by a thirty-minute high-speed road and railway.
As far as the election procedure itself is concerned, there are 111 IOC officials. Nine of them were not allowed to vote and others will vote electronically, it is a recent innovation.
Russia's President Vladimir Putin has been actively supporting Sochi's bid over the last year, both at the Black Sea resort itself and now in Guatemala. This is his first visit to the country where he has met the President of the country Oscar Berger Perdomo.
President Berger expressed his hopes that Russia will be happy with the results which will be announced on Wednesday. And President Putin also went on to talk about on what he felt were the strong points of the Sochi’s bid.
“Sochi is a unique place. It has a very mild climate and a huge amount of natural snow at the time when the winter Olympic Games take place – in spring. Sochi is a place where a totally new centre of winter sports could be created. And it would be successfully used not only by Russian citizens and sportsmen, but also by international guests. Russia has made a huge contribution to the development of winter sports, but there has not been a single time, when we were honoured with hosting the winter Olympic Games. We have all the necessary resources to realise the most ambitious projects. We’ve allocated $US 12 BLN to these projects and I’m sure we'll fulfill our plans in the very best way,” he said.
After the arrival Vladimir Putin has also had a conversation with the International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge.
“The choice of the host city for the 2014 Winter Olympics will be objective and fair,” assured the Head of the International Olympic committee.
And certainly, President Putin will support Russia's Olympic team right through until the final vote.
“I think that our chances are very good and with each day they get higher and higher because we have a very good bid, very big support from the government and mainly from our president. He is very popular not only in Russia, we should consider this, and he will represent our bid himself and I think it is one of the points that helps us to win,” said Sergey Shishkarev, a Deputy of the Russian State Duma from the Krasnodar region, in an interview to the channel.
Vladimir Geshkin, the Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Russia’s top sports daily, Sport Express, also says Sochi has several aces up its sleeve that should impress the IOC members.
“I think Sochi stands a good chance of winning, because its bid introduces lots of new things which are bound to attract the IOC inspectors' attention. This is the first time in history that one place has developed an environment for both summer and winter activities. Such places are very rare in the world and Sochi is one of them. The International Olympic Committee is doing its best now to create new winter resorts around the world. For example, after the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, lots of small centres appeared in the area with modern environments for mountain skiing and other winter sports. With the 2010 Games to be held in Vancouver, a large international center of winter sports is being built just outside the city. The same kind of center could be created in Sochi and that is one of Sochi's best cards. Another ace up Sochi's sleeve is that its bid is being totally supported by the Russian government and the President. The government, for its part, is ready to invest $US 12 BLN – a sum which should impress the IOC members,” Vladimir Geshkin supposes.
But the Russian President won't be alone. South Korean President, Roh Moo Hyun, and Austrian Chancellor, Alfred Gusenbauer, will also be present for the decision.
“Sochi, I believe, has the strongest bid in terms of the support it has from the government. It has more to build than any of the other cities and that is a weakness for the Sochi bid. On the other hand, the only way to overcome that kind of an obstacle is if you have the resources, and the Russian government, President Putin, others have made it very clear that the government is backing this bid and will do what's needed financially so that the facilities are there for the Olympic Games,” Ed Hula, the Editor-in-Chief of 'Around the Rings', said in his interview with RT.
Evgeny Plushenko, Olympic gold medallist in figure skating, told Russia Today that he keeps his fingers crossed for Sochi to become the 2014 Winter Olympics host city.
“If it depended only on my help, we would win, because I’m working a lot for it, from morning till night. It is something new to me, it is not figure skating but a very different job. I’m talking to people. Certainly, I won’t say what I’m going to do tomorrow, it’s a secret. But, you know, we are a big team. We have our President Vladimir Putin and I’m very happy because he supports us, he helps us. A lot of Olympic champions, a lot of athletes, and a lot of coaches are here. And I cross my fingers for our victory because this is a competition, this is the Olympic Games,” he said.
Guatemala is a far cry from the snowy slopes of Sochi, Pyeongchang or Salzburg. The City's old town square is a steamy riot of noise and colour.
Willi Kaltschmit, a Tourism Commissioner and Guatemala's delegate on the International Olympic Committee (IOC), explains why the three Winter Olympics bid finalists have travelled to tropical climes: “This is a country that's always respected Olympic tradition and the Olympic movement, it's very much into the Olympic spirit, and so we convinced the members and we won”.
It's been a long road for a small Central American nation. They've had to convince the IOC that they're the right people for the job. Two years ago Guatemala narrowly lost out to Singapore who won the rights to be the location where the summer games were announced. But since then the team has lobbied hard and now have what they want.
Sochi Winter Olympics bid team has been holding press-conferences for the last couple of days. They have shown the world media the strong points which distinguish Sochi from the other two bid cities. The Russian team have built their own ice rink in the centre of Guatemala, complete with fake snow. It's a taster of the Russia's cold thousands of miles from home.
And for the technicians, the hard work's far from over.
“Well, nobody is thinking about whether they're tired or not. They're here like a family. It's all about victory. We're here and our country is behind us,” Boris Krasnov, show Director, said.
They have just a matter of hours to prepare for their crucial final presentation. 45 minutes in which they'll try win the votes of more than a hundred IOC officials. And that's where Sochi are hoping the 'human factor' – their Olympic champions Evgeny Plushenko and Svetlana Zhurova – could be the ace up their sleeve.
Vitaly Smirnov, IOC member, told at the press conference, Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics would change millions of lives in Russia.
IIn another part of the city, Russia's four-time Olympic swimming champion, Aleksandr Popov, is sharing his expertise with a group of young athletes. He's no stranger to tough competition but he is being diplomatic about which city he thinks will win.
“It's extremely tough and it reminds me of the Olympic Games final that I had the privilege to participate in. The nearer we come to voting day, the tougher it gets. There will be a winner but at the end of the day everybody's a winner,” Aleksandr Popov said.
Back at the press centre, Russia's bid team face the media where the final message is clear.
“Nothing is given. It's up to the IOC to decide who will have the honour and what we're doing is showing ourselves to be a reliable partner,” said Dmitry Chernishenko, CEO Sochi Olympic Bid Team.
Virtually everyone is getting behind the bid as the countdown to the decision begins.
Meanwhile in Sochi, the International Olympic Festival has entered its third day. A whole range of sporting and entertainment events are being held. A number of kids' events and a lot of concerts are planned.
Also, in support of Sochi's bid, an attempt to break world flight altitude record among super light aircrafts is underway in the city. Aleksandr Begak, a famous pilot and designer, says he will fly his paraglider to an altitude higher than 5,500 metres.
Specialists from the Russian Federal Aeronautics Agency helped build his high-tech glider, which is made of plastic and titanium and equipped with an on-board computer. The U.S. holds the previous altitude record, but Aleksandr thinks he can make it as his machine has already reached the height during test flights.
A group of Chinese monks from the world-famous Shaolin temple have been showing off their wushu, or martial arts, skills in downtown Sochi.
“This is the year of China in Russia and we came here to perform some wushu in support of Sochi's bid for winter Olympics. I like this city and I think it has everything it takes to hold the games,” explained 21-year old Zhang Ben, a Shaolin monk, who's been doing martial arts since the age of six.
With just hours left before the host of the 2014 Winter Olympics is decided, a whole squad of Russian sports celebrities set off for the seaside resort. But prior to their flight they met the Russian President, who assured them that Sochi will become a developed sports venue regardless of the outcome of the International Olympic Committee's vote in Guatemala.
Opinion polls show 84% of the people in the region of Sochi support the bid for the 2014 Winter Olympics. While 50% of the local population is sure the bid will win.