Olympic Countdown: Tough Sledding for Sochi Organizers

Sochi Olympic Park on coast of Black Sea

(From USA Today, October 29, 2013) With the 2014 Winter Olympic Games fewer than 100 days away, Sochi, Russia is faced with a number of questions. Security is one challenge at the top of Sochi officials’ list. A week ago, a suicide bomber killed six and wounded two dozen more in a Russian city in the North Caucasus region. Although the terrorist attack was more than 500 miles from the resort city on the Black Sea, it still is a reminder that the threat does exist in the host city of Sochi. More than 30,000 police officers have been sent to high-risk areas outside of the Olympic venues. An undisclosed number of military personnel have also been set up around the Olympic border.  In a video earlier this year, a Chechen militant threatened to disrupt the Winter Games calling on rebels to strike. To make security threats even more interesting, this summer Russia passed an anti-gay law banning propaganda to minors that applies to both Russians and foreign visitors. The International Olympic Committee is not worried, however, that the new law will violate the IOC’s anti-discrimination rules.

Security isn’t the only challenge Sochi is dealing with. Another concern the Russian city is facing is the weather. Sochi is not in a typical Winter Olympic spot. The highest elevation peaks are snow covered, but at the cross country and biathlon center for instance, there isn’t any snow at all. Sochi officials are confident snow will not be an issue in February, but have 400 snow guns and four pumping stations just in case.

The $50 billion budget has made Sochi the most expensive Games of all time. Venues have been created out of nothing, many of which are still incomplete. The 20,000 hotel rooms added have doubled the existing number in the city. “Having the Olympics here is a great plus for our city,” said Andrei Mikolaenko, a retired director of a local bread factory. “We are going to suffer a bit with all of the change, but we have to be patient.” As the Games draw nearer, the eyes of the world will be on Sochi.