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Sochi’s Olympic ambitions to be tested

Since Sochi was awarded the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, the Russian Black Sea city has seen a massive overhaul. Sochi’s achievements are to receive their first serious examination as major sports events will be coming to the city starting this winter.
Over the past few years, billions of dollars in government funding have flowed in to build new infrastructure and develop a high-speed transport and road network in Sochi. Some Olympic venues, like the mountain slopes at the Roza Khutor ski resort, are ready to be tested during serious international sports competitions. The new road in the mountain cluster is due to open in less than two months, in time for the European Cup for alpine skiing to come to Sochi. Other major events are to follow.Despite the busy schedule, the organizers say that all other tracks and stadiums will be built on time. To make sure it is the perfect host, the whole city is in the middle of a massive makeover.Sochi’s mayor Anatoly Pakhomov believes the works are going smoothly and the city will welcome the Olympic Games all dressed up.“We still have time. We will groom the city. Give it a touch of makeup here and there, and those who will come to watch the Olympics will feel very comfortable here,” Pakhomov says.  Of course all this is part of one aim, which is to host the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. Since 2007, when Sochi was awarded the games, there has been a massive construction effort. Alongside stadiums, ski routes and ice rinks, Sochi is getting new roads, railway stations and dozens of hotels to accommodate the expected guests. The Russian government put aside more than 300 billion rubles (around $9.7 billion) to make it all a reality.One of the development projects, "The Road of Seven Bridges", is a scenic route from the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains, which now climbs all the way up to a very modern scene. The venue hosts Sochi's freestyle center, snowboard park and world-class ski pistes. The aim is to make old and new facilities work together seamlessly. Two new major tunnels and accompanying bridges will blend in with the unique highland scenes.This year the shape of some venues, including the Bolshoi Ice Palace and the joint highway and railroad linking coast to mountains, have become visible. From research and planning to construction the Sochi project has progressed quickly.However, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak says there is still much work ahead.“Talking about construction works, about one third of the whole volume is to be built yet. In terms of how much was done to prepare for the Olympics I think it’s approximately 70 per cent,” Kozak says.Three years seems a long time to finish the job, but the city feels the Olympic Countdown speeding up. With big events coming soon, Sochi will get its first real taste of global attention.  And it wants to make sure it is ready.