In other Olympic news, the IOC’s coordination panel for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, made their first site visit on Tuesday. There doesn’t seem to be much English-language coverage of this event, but what little does exist does not paint a positive picture. For example, Reuters reports that police were seen beating homeowners protesting the imminent destruction of their residences (complete with an SOS banner!) to make way for Olympic facilities. And then there was this gem, from the Moscow Times:
“It is very difficult to make Sochi an Olympic city,” an unidentified official said, RIA-Novosti reported. “There are many infrastructure limitations — no electricity, no roads, no way to get cargoes there needed for building.”
The new chief of Olimpstroi, former Sochi mayor Viktor Kolodyazhny, said Tuesday that he wasn’t going to reshuffle his staff.
“Why would I do that?” Kolodyazhny said. “It’s professionals that work there. They suit me.”
Jean-Claude Killy, the former Olympic ski champion heading up the coordination team, did his best to sound optimistic about all of this, but the best that he could muster was this quote, subsequently transformed into headlines like “Killy: IOC impressed by early preparations for ‘most challenging Olympics’ ever in Sochi“:
“It’s probably the most challenging Olympics yet as far as what has to be built,” Killy said at a meeting with the Russian organizers and Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov. “We have a lot of work to do together.”
So where can the good autocrats behind the Sochi games turn for a 100% positive story? BOCOG, of course! Under the headline “Strong foundations laid for Sochi 2014,” BOCOG’s official release on the site visit avoids the troublesome Killy quote, or any of the pesky environmental concerns raised (even) in Russian state-owned media, and instead gets right to the point. Namely, big infrastructure:
Speaking about the sites, Gilbert Felli, IOC Executive Director for the Olympic Games, said: “The Sochi venues will be some of the most spectacular winter sports arenas in the world, ranging from magnificent mountain sites to stadiums on the water’s edge.”
For those of us who spent the last few years following Beijing 2008 preparations, this is nothing new. What is new – at least from my perspective – is seeing that BOCOG’s knee-jerk whitewash to all things Olympic now being applied to problems outside of China.
Only 2114 days to go.
[Appropriate Soundtrack: The Three Degrees, “When Will I See You Again?“]