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14 May, 2009 22:14

Sochi facelift gathers pace

Construction may have ground to a halt in many Russian cities during the downturn, but in Sochi it's booming. The city's reaping the rewards of being chosen to host the 2014 Winter Olympics.

The city which has suffered traffic, energy and water supply problems in the past is undergoing a massive make-over. Some of the construction work for the Olympics is ahead of schedule despite the economic crisis.

A three-kilometre tunnel – one of the longest in Russia – is being built to provide a vital link to the venues.

“I think this project is unique, not only for Russia but for the whole world,” Vladimir Prostokvashin from “MOST” construction company says.

Most venues are being built in the mountains, and new roads and railways will shift both athletes and spectators to the resort in super quick time.

The ice rink, a stadium and the Olympic village will be situated in the Imereti valley. Their construction requires a massive relocation effort which is now under way.

Robert Yailyan, who owns a small hotel in the Imereti lowland, was offered replacement housing. Some of his neighbors are still worried about relocation, but Robert is certain: he’ll be accepting guests in a new hotel very soon.

”People from all over the country are calling me to ask if my hotel will be demolished. And I tell them – don’t worry, just come!” Robert says.

The preparations are being watched closely by the International Olympic Committee with its experts visiting Sochi every two months.

“The Sochi 2014 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games have the potential to be a truly great celebration of winter sport and if we all continue to work hard and to keep our focus, I’m confident that we’ll produce a Games that will be unforgettable,” IOC Coordination Commission Chairman Jean-Claude Killy said.

The Prime Minister's brimming with confidence too, giving his personal reassurance there'll be no delays.

“One of the most important aspects of the Olympic Games project is keeping to the agreed schedule and we are quite successful at that. At some areas we are even ahead of schedule. Extra special value has been placed on environmental issues,” Vladimir Putin said.

For Sochi, the Winter Olympics is not a few weeks of fun, but a long-term investment in the city’s future.