Russia will protect Sochi 2014 budget

It may be seven years away but for Russians the heat is already on when it comes to preparing for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. Meanwhile, critics have already expressed concern the multi-billion dollar budget might fall foul of corruption and e

Russian authorities, though, have started taking action to prevent this.

As the euphoria fades its time to get to work, and the stakes are higher than ever. At the centre of the plans there are the Olympic venues themselves. Dozens of state-of-the-art sports centres will be built from scratch in Sochi and the mountain resort, Krasnaya Polyana, at an estimated cost of $US 1.5 BLN.

But it is not just about the Olympics. A $US 12 BLN budget has been set aside to improve infrastructure including highways, hotels and even hospitals.

Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Zhukov said the state has already allocated money for construction, and has worked out a plan to make sure the funds are spent properly.

“All the facilities, sport facilities that are to be built should be completed at least one year before the beginning of the Winter Olympic Games, because already in the middle of winter 2013 we should have international competitions in all kinds of winter Olympic sports. Our federal programme envisages that the majority of the facilities will be completed a year before the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, maybe even earlier,” Aleksandr Zhukov assured.

For critics the vast budget is a sticky issue with concerns of corruption and embezzlement from inside the government organising body.

President Vladimir Putin has guaranteed security, and in a meeting with the Prosecutor General, he announced proposals to protect the funds.

“I have signed a decree on security during the Winter Olympics in 2014. It includes not only the physical security of our guests and athletes but also financial security. By this I mean a strict control of the budgetary funds. To ensure the implementation of this target I ask you to set up a special team that would include not only members of the General Prosecutor's office but also officials from other law enforcement agencies who will strictly monitor the whole process,” the Russian President stated.

Sergey Stepashin, the Head of the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation believes that “the tasks the President has set for the government, and the Prosecutor General's Office, will be certainly resolved, and the 2014 Olympics in Sochi will be organized and funded up to the best world standards.”

Although many say the real work as only just beginning, the project puts great emphasis on its legacy. Not only will it provide a major boost for winter sports throughout Russia but the whole of the country's South is poised for a dramatic makeover.

Initial stress is on transport. New airports and seaports are set to double the flow of tourists to the region, as well as improve trade links to Europe.

“A decision has been made that Sochi's port will build a modern retractable passenger terminal capable of accepting at least two big cruise liners. A big cruise liner, for your information, is about 3,000 rooms. In this way, beside the newly built hotels we can provide mooring for two big cruise ships in time for the Olympic Games,” First Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Ivanov pledged. 

Economically, it would appear Russia and Sochi cannot lose, but as the Bid Committee faces the challenge of living its dream, the next seven years will undoubtedly be an uphill climb.