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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Winter Olympics 2014: Sochi’s day of reckoning has finally come

Here in Sochi, there is plenty on the Russian President’s to-do list as he bustles about town, preparing for the opening of his Olympic Games; stopping off here to give a pep talk to the nation’s athletes, stopping off there to greet another world leader.
The first events begin on Thursday morning. High in the mountains above Sochi, snowboarders will take to the slopes of Rosa Khutor, while down on the shores of the Black Sea the final touches are being added to Friday night’s opening ceremony.

“Russia,” declared President Vladimir Putin, “is ready to host the Games.”
Just a few miles away, news of the President’s declaration was received with guffaws. On the edge of the Coastal Cluster, where the shiny stadia hosting the indoor events glinted in the afternoon sun, blocks of apartments have been constructed to house the world’s media. They are not ready. “It is premature to call it a failure,” insisted a harassed IOC spokesperson, although he conceded there were “issues”.

Russian readiness was called into regular question throughout Tuesday and Wednesday – and in language that few of the irate journalists could print in their own publications – as they were billeted in unfinished rooms. One Briton was shown to his in the small hours of this morning, only to find workmen still putting the final touches to it. A Canadian was told not to wash his face because the water “contains something very dangerous”. Others’ rooms lacked running water entirely. Or lightbulbs. Door knobs and fridge doors came off in startled hands.

“In principle,” insisted one official, “all the work is done.” He added: “There are some elements working from a subtext that something is wrong, something is bad, there’s a reason for this, there’s a cunning plan.”


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