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Russia Shows Resort to Winter Olympic Committee

  • Emma Simpson

A delegation from the International Olympic Committee has arrived in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi to assess its bid to host the 2014 Winter Olympics. Other candidate cities are Salzburg, Austria and Pyeongchang, South Korea. Emma Simpson reports for VOA from Moscow, Sochi is a popular holiday spot for Russians, but less well known outside Russia.

Russia is spending billions of dollars to try to put Sochi on the international tourism map.

The town on the Black Sea was built in the 1930s as a summer resort for weary soviet workers. Today, millions of Russians flock there, drawn to its beaches, casinos and discos. With its sub-tropical climate, it is not a place readily associated with winter sports.

But the organizers of Russia's Olympic bid believe that Sochi's rare mix of mountains and beaches gives it a clear advantage. Soaring up behind the city are the snowcapped peaks of the Caucasus mountains, where Russian officials hope to host the world's greatest skiers.

Sochi is about to undergo a construction boom, with gleaming new skiing villages, stadiums and hotels planned.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is a frequent visitor to that corner of Russia, and has given his personal backing to the bid. Some of Russia's richest businessmen are bank-rolling much of the reconstruction.

Some of the money has already been spent on improving the local airport. The IOC is expected to look closely at the plans following a plane crash at the airport last year.

During the next few days, the city is pulling out the stops to impress the Olympic inspectors. Irina Baranskaya, the chief designer, spoke to Russia Today television news.

"There will be a show here. You can see posters, and the trees are decorated with fabric and flowers. A holiday atmosphere will be created. We aim to show a city where many cultures meet," Baranskaya says.

But in Sochi the redevelopment of the old Soviet resort has barely even begun. The Olympic inspectors will need some imagination, as they consider Russia's bid. A final decision will be made in July.

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