Winter Olympics Update: Sochi mayor promises lots of snow
The first official test of the biathlon track has been held at next year's Winter Games resort of Sochi, with Russia's Olympic champion, Svetlana Sleptsova, taking gold at the warm-up event.
At the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, Russia finished 11th overall, with three gold medals, with two of them coming in biathlon – the country's second most popular winter sport behind ice hockey.
Svetlana Sleptsova was top of the podium in Canada and she also took gold in the IBU Cup, at the purpose-built Laura Biathlon & Ski Complex not far from Sochi in Krasnaya Polyana.
"Today I tested the track – and I really felt it,” she told RT. “There's no other track in the world like this. It's hard – the downhills are steep, there's no place to have rest. Only the strongest athlete will win the Olympics. To get ready for the Games, you need not only to train here, but also to live here."
This seems to bode well for Russia's biathletes, who'll also get to test the track again in March when Sochi will host a stage of the World Cup.
Svetlana Sleptsova competes in the women's sprint race at IBU's Regional Cup in Sochi (RIA Novosti / Mikhail Mokrushin)
Meanwhile, the other issue at Vancouver wasn't just one of medals for Russia – but also of snow for everyone.
The Canadian venue had to import it to help keep the events running due to unusually mild weather, but Sochi mayor says his seaside resort will have no such problems.
"As for the snow, there won't be any risks – we're not even worried about it,” Anatoly Pakhomov commented. “Of course, we all saw the problems in Vancouver, but we have more natural snow here in February, and every track has its own snow machine."
Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov at the closing ceremony for the 23rd Kinotavr Film Festival in Sochi (RIA Novosti / Mikhail Mokrushin)
The biathlon track wasn't the only one tested recentley as the Russian junior bobsleigh team also tried out the Sanki Sliding Centre.
The 9.000-seat arena is almost ready to host next month's final stage of the Bobsleigh World Cup, while the Sochi officials are not just looking towards the Olympics, but a wider sporting legacy in the Black Sea city.
"If you visited Sochi now, you'd see not only our Olympic objectives, but many other projects, such as the Formula 1 track that will host the Russian stage of the season in October 2014," Pakhomov added.
There's also some good news for the world's press as the cutting edge media center is also near to completion, with still more than a year to go until the opening ceremony for Russia's maiden Winter Olympics.