Posts Tagged ‘Sochi 2014’

Around the Rings was on the scene for the Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Games. Two years from now the Sochi 2014 Winter Games will take place. Will you be there?


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(ATR) The twisting and turning road to the mountain venues in Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics can be a dangerous route to travel. It also may be a perfect symbol of the perils still ahead for these first Winter Games in Russia.

Forty km of bends in the road and two-lane tunnels make the 50-minute journey from sea level to mountains (and then the return) an arduous trip. With construction for Olympic projects now on a 24-hour schedule, a constant stream of dump trucks, cement trucks, and huge trailers towing heavy equipment make the route that much more challenging — and risky.

Police do what they can to bust drivers passing unsafely. Our car to the airport during last week’s visit to Sochi got stopped for just that. Accidents are common, sometimes with deadly consequences.

Fortunately, this is not the road most will take in 2014. A new highway and rail line running through the Mzynta River valley will become the Olympic transport artery once construction is complete. The project – said to be the biggest in Europe – will soon employ upwards of 30,000 workers in the push to have venues and infrastructure ready as much as two years before the Games.

The changes that have taken place since my last visit to Sochi more than three years ago are extraordinary.
From the coastal venue cluster to the mountains, the transformation taking place was just a talking point when I visited Sochi, then a candidate city for 2014.

At the Olympic Park on the shore of the Black Sea, the Bolshoi Ice Arena is going up with the speed skating arena not far behind. The Olympic Village is underway and one of three removable arenas is being assembled; it will be moved to another location in Russia post-Games.

The project with the biggest footprint is the massive rail line of Russian Railways that connects the park to the airport, the mountain venues as well as the center of Sochi. Combined with a highway, construction stretches alongside the Mzynta River valley for 40 km, ending near Rosa Khutor, the resort that will host alpine and other premier events in 2014.
From upwards of an hour of travel now, the new transport link will halve the time it takes to go from the coast to the mountains.

Sometimes crossing the river — sometimes running alongside the churning waters — this engineering marvel might face a tough time in the U.S. or Canada due to laws regulating construction in wetlands. Or if it were to be built, years of litigation and other challenges would need to be overcome first.

That’s not to say the environmental impact of the project is being overlooked. Permits and safeguards are needed for this kind of work in Russia, too. But this project would seem to have benefitted from a fast track approval process, perhaps a good example that government support for the Olympics means more than spending money.

A tour of what is known as Tunnel Number Five (of six) gave journalists a first-hand look at this extraordinary project on the Olympic rail line. Nearly 3km long and 10m wide, the tunnel was bored through a mountain by a behemoth of a machine that chews up rock and earth and leaves the finished tunnel wall in place.

In my 20 years of Olympics coverage, opportunities to be granted access to the bowels of such a construction project, clambering over narrow stairways, wooden gangways and muddy stretches, have been rare. We even got inside the boring machine. And while we all wore the requisite hard hat, the feet were overlooked: some of the media were shod in thin-soled strappy sandals that would have triggered gasps from workplace safety officials in previous Olympic cities.

At the end of the line in Rosa Khutor, the alpine venue cluster, a collection of buildings rises on both sides of the river. Three years ago, this construction site was just a clearing on the riverbanks. Now new hotels and apartments are being built to serve what is hoped will be a year-round tourist industry, after the Olympics have gone. It’s a risk that project developer Interros, headed by tycoon Vladimir Potanin, is apparently willing to take.

This “if we build it they will come” philosophy even includes a dream of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin for a university in Sochi dedicated to the Olympics. He took part in a ceremony last week with IOC President Jacques Rogge to mark the imminent start of construction for the school. Rogge says he expects that the world’s 200+ national Olympic committees will be eager to send students to the university.

With his university as one of the many projects underway, Putin says he expects the Olympics will contribute to the economic development of southern Russia.

It’s not the first time grandiose vision of Olympic legacy has cloaked an Olympic city. In Sochi, figures like $30 billion in government spending are being reported for infrastructure.

But like the twisted road to the mountains, the route to that legacy is not so direct. And it requires some risky moves, like nerve-wracking lane changes. We did make it to the airport last week without harm – and with plenty of time to spare.
Let’s hope the hands on the wheel of the Sochi Olympic machine are able to navigate the road to 2014 with the same fortunate outcome.

Written by Ed Hula

For general comments or questions, click here.
(Copyright 1992 2008, all rights reserved. The information in this report may not be published, excerpted, or otherwise distributed in print or broadcast without the express prior consent of Around the Rings.)

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Opening Remarks at Meeting of the Council for the Development of Physical Culture and Sport, Excellence in Sports, Preparation and Organisation of the 2014 Sochi XXII Winter Olympics and XI Paralympics and the 2013 XXVII World Student Games in Kazan

A month has gone by since the Vancouver Olympics came to a close. This is enough time for us to have analysed our national team’s performance, drawn our conclusions, and responded with practical measures that will ensure our team’s success at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.

As far as the conclusions go, eleventh place in the overall team ranking is obviously a bad result which has its roots in causes that reach back quite a way now. Indeed, our teams have shown worsening results in terms of the numbers of medals won over the years from 2006 to 2010. Even in winter sports in which our athletes have traditionally been victorious we all see that over these last years we have been steadily lagging behind our main competitors.

Yet at the same time, we have been investing just as much in training our athletes as have other countries. Indeed, to be absolutely frank, in a number of cases we have even invested more than other countries. The problem today is not so much in a lack of [financial] resources as in their ineffective use, and that is the first point I want to make. I will not name the figures as you all know them well, but however we look at it, we have invested tenfold more than in earlier years.

The second point is that this situation has shown up the shortcomings in our entire athletes training system. As it has been said before, this system must be centred above all on the athletes themselves. In all of the world’s sports powers training programmes and methods take into account each future Olympic competitor’s specific individual particularities, so as to ensure they take their places at the starting line in top shape.

The level of medical, biological and scientific support for the teams plays a crucial part in this respect but we only began using this comprehensive approach in our team’s training last year, and we may as well not hide the fact that it is not yet implemented in full. The task therefore is to dramatically change this situation drawing on the most advanced international experience in this area.

I think we need to set annual performance targets for the different sports, and motivate our athletes and sports specialists to achieve the highest results. We could also look at increasing the size of presidential grants for members of our Olympic and Paralympic teams.

Third, the current system used to build up the pool of athletes we can draw on also has a negative impact. We know that the winter Olympics cover 14 different sports, but more than 90 percent of our country’s athletes are training in just five of these sports. This means that we will soon have trouble finding people to compete for our national team in the other nine sports.

This imbalance in the training system is partly linked to the lack of top quality training facilities in our country, as we all know, and to disproportioned availability of technology and equipment to different sports here. We still do not have training facilities measuring up to world standards for a substantial number of winter Olympic sports. Our athletes train mostly abroad, and in limited numbers. Everyone here knows what difficulties this creates, and what the main problems are that we face here.

We do not have modern training facilities for ski-jumping, Nordic combined, freestyle, snowboard, curling, alpine skiing, bobsled, luge and short track. We do not have enough specialised rinks for figure skating. True, construction is underway on national and regional centres for training athletes in winter sports, but these projects will only be completed by 2011 or 2012. Meanwhile, providing teams with proper training conditions should be one of the top priorities for the sports federations.

We also need to take measures to develop the manufacturing of top-level sports equipment here in Russia. Russian athletes in Vancouver had problems even with sports equipment. Sports in which performance is directly linked to the quality of technology and equipment require particular attention. This goes for bobsled, luge, and biathlon.

It is unacceptable to end up in a situation where we depend completely on foreign manufacturers. We have the full ability to manufacture this equipment ourselves and it is entirely within our powers.

I say once again that I expect to hear explicit reports and proposals from all of the officials present today on the different reasons I have just mentioned for our poor performance in Vancouver.

I note once more, too, that these reasons did not only just now emerge. They have been around for a long time now, and so there is no way that those responsible for our national Olympic team could have failed to notice them.

Some decisions on resignation of officials have already taken place. The president of the National Olympic Committee has stepped down, and so have a number of officials from the Ministry of Sport. The heads of the cross country skiing, alpine skiing, freestyle, snowboard, ski jumping and Nordic combined federations have announced their intention to step down. A number of other officials of sports federations have also found the courage to take this difficult but responsible decision. Thus, of the 12 national federations in Olympic sports seven will get new heads.

We also need to look at the wisdom of having all of these federations exist as separate bodies. I am not imposing any decisions, but respective ideas should be reviewed.

I want to say to the current and future presidents of our sports federations that this is a job where you need to work hard. Not sit on your backside all day or go on jaunts abroad, but slog away 24 hours a day. We need professionals, qualified people who know what our athletes need and know how to organise the training process, where to find the money and so on. All the bosses can move onto supervisory boards and help whichever sport they favour from there. This is the way things will go from now on.

There are still many problems in our system for managing top-level sport. First of all, it is not always clear exactly who is responsible for national teams’ training. You know how fuzzy this responsibility is in our country. It is dispersed between the [National] Olympic Committee, the sports federations, the Ministry of Sport, and the regional authorities too. As always, whenever you have four or five different bodies responsible, no one ends up answering for the situation. We all know the saying about the child looked after by seven nannies. We all know where this leads. I think that above all the federation heads and the teams’ trainers should be responsible for the teams’ performance.

Improving the legal framework for developing sport is another area on which we need to focus. We need to delimit clearly the powers of the authorities at each level in training and building up the pool of athletes, and establish a mechanism for providing federal budget support to regional and municipal sports schools, which must soon become growth centres in the priority Olympic sports.

Finally, we also need to increase Russia’s presence in the international sports organisations. Our current possibilities do not enable us in full measure to promote and protect our athletes’ interests as we have had occasions to see, and, also very important, to take full part in drafting international rules and sports regulations. Overall, Russia has a considerable number of representatives in these organisations, but their level, and more importantly, their activeness leave a lot to be desired. We have 180 representatives, so we are not short of choice and have plenty on our plates.

On a definitely much more positive note, the X Paralympic Games ended on March 21. This kind of competition is getting more attention worldwide with every passing year and is becoming tougher all the time.

Russia’s team in Vancouver was in first place for the total number of medals won, and in second place for the number of gold medals, falling just one ‘gold’ short of the leaders. Our Paralympic athletes, who showed immense willpower and determination to win, deserve full credit for this excellent performance. Good on them, to put it simply. I want to inform you that I signed an executive order today awarding our Paralympic athletes state decorations, and I plan to meet with them and congratulate them very soon. We need to discuss their situation too and look at what we can do to improve things and support Russian Paralympic athletes so as to give them the best chances in Sochi in 2014.

Colleagues, the working group believes that in order to prepare in detail and oversee implementation of all of these measures in regular and ongoing fashion we need a common centre to monitor and analyse the work undertaken to train our athletes, and if need be propose swift measures in addition to the plans set out. Let’s look at this matter too.

At the 2014 Winter Olympics Russia must show the world that it can host a competition of the highest standard. I said this earlier at the ceremony raising the Olympic and Paralympic flags here in Sochi. This is our chance to show the world that we are a capable, hospitable and technologically advanced country. It is also our chance to show the world that we can stand tall and that we know how to win.

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More than 500 Paralympians took part in the closing ceremony in Whistler. (Getty Images)

The 2010 Winter Paralympics win the title of “best ever” as the flame goes out one last time in Vancouver and Whistler, hosts as well of the Winter Olympics held in February.

As the Winter Paralympics closed Sunday after 10 days, International Paralympic Committee president Philip Craven declared the experience as the “the best ever Winter Paralympic Games”.

An intimate ceremony in Whistler Medals Plaza was the setting for the extinguishing of the Paralympic flame and the passing of a lit torch from Canadian children to a group of Russian youths.

“We found something special here in British Columbia, and while the world noticed our patriotic celebration and excitement, we at Vancouver 2010 felt it,” Furlong said. “It is with humility and more than a little regret that we now say good-bye.”

IPC President Philip Craven. (Getty Images)

Furlong spoke earlier than scheduled so he could travel to Georgia for a Tuesday memorial honoring Olympic luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, victim of a fatal training crash in Whistler on Feb. 12.

The ceremony featured more than 500 Paralympians from 44 countries marching through Whistler Village to the ceremony.

The 90-minute production, titled With Glowing Hearts, was the last event of Vancouver’s Winter Games period.

Nunavut throat singer Tanya Tagaq set the tone for the pageant as Paralympian Kelly Smith of Vancouver left his wheelchair and was thrown high above the audience before he was safely caught in a traditional Inuit blanket toss.

Saskatoon cross-country skier Colette Bourgonje and Japanese sledge hockey captain Endo Takayuki of Japan received the special Whang Youn Dai achievement gold medals.

Furlong paid tribute to the inspiration of Canadian Paralympians.

“Lauren (Woolstencroft), Brian (McKeever) and Viviane (Forest) – you are Canada’s newest heroes,” he said.

“Every Canadian child now knows who you are, but to every Paralympian from every country, you have shown us that for the human heart there is no worthy adversary.”

The flame is passed to Sochi for the 2014 Winter Paralympics. (Getty Images)

Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed joined Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson to pass the Paralympic flag to Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov via Craven.

Music from the Tchaikovsky classic Nutcracker suite accompanied images of a sand artist animation and an ice dance by Paralympic swimming champion Olesya Vladykina and Olympic figure skating champion Ilia Kulik.

Speaking at a closing press conference, Craven said the 230,000 tickets sold (out of an inventory of 250,000) was a record for the Winter Paralympics. Of those sold, 30,200 tickets were distributed for $5 each to elementary and high school students.

“It’s been a unique experience in the venues which has been ‘pro-Canada’, ‘Go Canada Go’ but a lot of ‘go – every other country’ too,” Craven said.

Craven said 50,000 viewers a day watched action online via ParalympicSport.TV.

Reflecting on the decade-long job of heading the organization from bid stage to Games-end, Furlong said: “I regret not a second of it, but I say to anybody who wants to take on something like this they have to be ready to realize that it’s never going to go away until it’s over.”

Fireworks over Whistler Village at the close of the Winter Paralympics. (Getty Images)

VANOC winds-up its operations in 2011. Though deputy CEO Dave Cobb is forecasting break-even, he wouldn’t dismiss the possibility of a small deficit or small surplus on the $1.76 billion operating budget. He expected most of the IOC’s $22 million summer 2009 rescue pledge would be used. Any surplus would be donated to amateur sport.

It could be months before the books are closed and Cobb cautioned that many variables exist, such as the size of compensation for owners of Whistler Blackcomb and Cypress Mountain.

“There is no way we’re going to be exactly balanced to the penny, we’re either going to be a little bit below or a little bit better,” Cobb said.

“We’re very confident now we will be better.”

With reporting from Bob Mackin in Vancouver.

For general comments or questions, click here
Your best source of news about the Olympics is www.aroundtherings.com, for subscribers only.

(Copyright 1992 2008, all rights reserved. The information in this report may not be published, excerpted, or otherwise distributed in print or broadcast without the express prior consent of Around the Rings.)

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Ed Hula in Vancouver

Sochi and London organizers tell us it’s too early to glean lessons from the experience of the Vancouver Olympics, but we have some ideas for them to think about.

Don’t underestimate.

For the past week, VANOC has blamed some glitches on underestimates. Whether the wave of Vancouverites eager to see the Olympic cauldron or the muddy conditions at the Cypress snowboard venue that led to cancellation of general admission tickets, VANOC says it could not foresee problems until they became an issue.

Fortunately, VANOC has managed to respond with solutions before reaching peril.

The burgeoning crowds in Vancouver (so far handled without serious incident) are a sure signal that crowd control might be one of the potential issues London would be careful to manage ahead of time.

A metropolitan area five times the size of Vancouver means there are enough Londoners to choke the city in pedestrian gridlock in 2012. Tube capacity – often maxed-out for daily commutes – will be stressed as never before.

The Olympic Flame in the cauldron in Vancouver. (Getty Images)

For Sochi, the 2014 Olympic theater is spread among three stages. Two of them — the venue cluster for ice sports and the venue cluster for snow events — are relatively close together. But the resort city of Sochi itself, with hotels, restaurants and other diversions, is 20 to 30 minutes north of the Olympic sites. A new bypass road will make the journey quicker by rubber-tired vehicle and a swift train runs to the site.

What Sochi cannot underestimate is the need for these transit links to work without a hitch. Unlike Vancouver, walking won’t be an option should the bus be missed or the trains are delayed. And slow-moving transit will test the patience of media and spectators. That would be an inauspicious debut for Sochi, which hopes to impress as a new travel destination.

We like the seemingly more relaxed security routine for Vancouver media that makes entry to Olympic venues a pleasure. Random screenings for reporters means no lines to get in, a liberating experience that we hope London and Sochi can emulate.

The economic downturn seems to have hit Vancouver hard when it comes to decorating the city in the so-called “look of the Games”. Street pole banners are tiny and often inconspicuous, while building wraps simply do not exist. The feel that the Olympics are taking place is confined to areas where events are being held, which are also the only locations where the look of Vancouver takes hold.

London and Sochi, with more ground to cover than Vancouver, have some thinking to do about how to give their locales an Olympic feel without spending more on banners than sport.

But for what Vancouver may lack in graphic display, the people of the city and the throngs from around the world are creating a buzz that’s sometimes been missing from recent Games. London and Sochi, we hope, will be people’s Games, too.

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Written by Ed Hula in Vancouver.

For general comments or questions, click here.

Your best source of news about the Olympics is http://www.aroundtherings.com, for subscribers only.

(Copyright 1992 2008, all rights reserved. The information in this report may not be published, excerpted, or otherwise distributed in print or broadcast without the express prior consent of Around the Rings.)

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