Sochi deserves Olympic success

23/ 10/ 2006

MOSCOW. (Ivan Dmitrienko, RIA Novosti) - Sochi, Russia's hope for the 2014 Olympic/Paralympic Games, has been as widely touted as a candidate city as it has been a source of controversy and contention. With opinions so polarized, is there any hope of seeing the Olympics in the Russian South anytime soon?

The Russian National Olympic Committee unanimously supported the bid, placing its hopes on Sochi's healthy alpine climate, proximity to main transport routes, and, most importantly, a well-developed hospitality industry of a Black Sea resort, and has highlighted its average winter temperature of 10 °C (50 °F), unheard of for a ski resort.

Grand pre-Olympic development plans, if implemented, will mark a tremendous turning point for the city as the IOC's list of necessities includes ski racing, biathlon, downhill, luge and bobsleigh venues, two (major and minor) ice hockey palaces, a speed-skating rink, a figure-skating complex, and dozens of "auxiliary" facilities which come with a need to handle the influx of people. The local bid pressure group, however, looks confident enough, vowing the plan would be fulfilled nonpareil, point by point.

In reality, things are not as good. The region still wants substantial highway repairs, and the only major sports venue under construction in the city is the downhill stadium. The city budget is minute compared with the projected costs, which means Sochi will have to prove it can attract huge investment and bear responsibilities that come with it.

The government has weighed in recently with a promise to allocate nearly 328 billion rubles ($12.22 billion, or �9.67 billion), enough even for a 100% greenfield Olympic project, if Sochi's bid is successful. However, competition (Salzburg, Austria and PyeongChang, South Korea) is already working hard, so Sochi's bid is also a race against time.

Even if the Black Sea resort fails to host the Olympics in 2014, its participation has already brought important results - its region, the Krasnodar Territory, has seen a boost in attention and investment; the long-delayed commissioning of a new Sochi airport is, at last, due later this year; and, most importantly, there is solid support for the idea across the nation and especially inside the city.

However, we do want the city to make it, and we will look forward to Jacques Rogge's favorable decision in Guatemala next July. Sochi is a city that really deserves to make a comeback as a world-class resort.