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21 Apr, 2010 07:10

Sochi getting ready to welcome Olympic flame

Despite the inevitable impact Olympic construction has on the everyday life of Sochi residents, many believe the effort is worth it, as they look forward to the 2014 Olympics on their home soil.

For Sochi’s young skiers, everything is real: the speed, the excitement and the drama. For many Sochi families, winter sports are a hobby. However, for Stepan Zhuravchenko it is even more serious – he wants to be a pro.

"When you ski, you are as free as a bird. It is nothing like other sports, when you sometimes feel like everything is locked. That is why I chose this sport," he told RT.

The steep slopes of the Caucasus mountains in Greater Sochi were picked as the site for the future Winter Olympics three years ago.

A massive construction effort has been launched to provide sporting venues, housing and transportation for tens of thousands of visitors.

Russian athletes may wish to forget their poor performance in the recent Olympics in Canada, but for the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee, Vancouver was a chance to pick up some tips.

Even so, Sochi's unique subtropical location demands a unique approach. Some venues, such as the city airport, had to be remodeled to fit Olympic guidelines. Other construction projects, including roads, tunnels and overpasses, have been built from scratch over the past few years.

In a recent development, Sochi’s mayor, Anatoly Pakhomov, has come up with the initiative to unify the city’s architectural appearance, suggesting all city roofs and fences be painted red.

He added that construction and maintenance of buildings should be carried out in accordance with the city authority’s architectural plans.

“Sochi is the Olympic capital, an international resort, therefore the demands are high,” Pakhomov added.

With lessons from the Vancouver games in mind and with the rapid construction schedule underway, the organizers of the Sochi Olympics are hoping to make it an unforgettable event. For athletes and visitors it will be a chance to put new venues to the test. For locals it is a perfect opportunity for major city improvement.

The International Olympic Committee has strict guidelines for each stage of preparations. Its members recently visited more than 30 construction sites in Sochi.

”We are very happy to see the remarkable progress that has been achieved. This is probably the biggest construction site in Europe and is working around the clock. We are returning home full of optimism,” said the IOC Coordination Commission chairman Jean-Claude Killy.

The majority of the Olympic venues will have to be completed by 2012, to be tested during smaller sporting events.

The ice arena, the stadium and some of the new downhill ski tracks in Krasnaya Polyana are now under construction.

It may be that young Sochi ski champions who get their toy prizes today will be collecting the real Olympic medals of tomorrow.