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1 Jul, 2007 16:59

Sochi sees a clear road ahead

With only a few days to go until the winner of the 2014 Winter Olympic bid is announced, Russia’s Sochi is said to stand a good chance. But regardless of the result, the southern resort is set to be transformed.

Ahead of his trip to the U.S., President Vladimir Putin met with leading Russian Olympians. The medal winners are backing Sochi's bid to host the 2014 Winter Games. 

The President is going to the final meeting of the International Olympic Committee in Guatemala after his visit to the U.S.  He said Russia is fully prepared to organise the Olympic event to the best of its abilities.

The federal government is pumping billions of dollars into the areas, and a scheme to modernise the region's roads is a top priority. 

During the high tourist season – which for Sochi is the summer months from June to September – the city’s population grows several times over. Millions come here for their holidays, and many make the journey by car. And when that happens, the city becomes one massive traffic jam – making it difficult even for ambulances to get around. 

“We can drive freely only during the weekends and at night. Otherwise, the whole town is a solid traffic jam. Why does this city need traffic lights if they’re not helpful at all?” complains taxi driver Andrey Ivanenko.

Sochi’s narrow streets are unable to handle all the traffic. But since the seaside town became a candidate for the 2014 winter Olympics, the city’s administration has become particularly concerned about this issue. 

“It’s no secret that transportation is our biggest problem. As part of the Olympics plan, we will widen the streets, build several new highways and roads in the mountains, connecting the city with possible Olympic venues,” said Vladimir Afanasenko from Sochi's administration.

One of the first projects set to be undertaken is a by-pass, connecting Sochi with the nearby town of Adler, which has the nearest airport. Its construction has been halted for almost two decades due to a lack of funding. Even now every kilometre of this road costs around $US 30 MLN.

“More than $US 3 BLN will be spent on the transport system, some 1 BLN on energy systems and another 500 MLN on engineering. And our plans will go ahead regardless of whether or not we get to host the games. The transport system in Sochi will be seriously reorganised,” says Vladimir Afanasenko.

Still, the authorities say rebuilding the infrastructure in the city will take several years, as – apart from financing – there are still many complications on the way like the environmental issue, for instance.

In order to make the roads in Sochi wider, the trees on either side of the road will need to be removed. So the administration has a tough choice to make – either to meet the demands of drivers or to sacrifice precious greenery for the sake of improving transport links. In any case, they say, the final decision will be made after July 4.