News / Europe

Russia Scrambles to Ready Hotels for Sochi Winter Games

Workers start cleaning the area next to an unfinished hotel in the mountain media village on top of the village of Esto Sadok at the Rosa Khutor alpine resort near Sochi, February 2, 2014. Sochi will host the 2014 Winter Olympic Games from February 7 to 2
Workers start cleaning the area next to an unfinished hotel in the mountain media village on top of the village of Esto Sadok at the Rosa Khutor alpine resort near Sochi, February 2, 2014. Sochi will host the 2014 Winter Olympic Games from February 7 to 2
Reuters
Large crates of equipment stand unopened outside the entrance to the plush new Swissotel above Sochi as it scrambles to be ready for the start of the Winter Olympics.

A bricklayer in a woolen hat puts the finishing touches to a nearby wall, workers in white helmets fix cables and others clear snow with shovels. Inside the hotel, new chairs are piled on top of each other in the lobby.

Russian officials have declared Sochi ready for the Games, on which President Vladimir Putin has staked his and his country's reputation. Days before they open on Friday, though, the organizers acknowledge that not all the new hotels are ready, despite the Games' $50-billion price tag.

“We have our first customers coming on Feb. 6,” said Oliver Kuhn, manager of the Swissotel in the Krasnaya Polyana ski resort, which will host the Alpine skiing in the Caucasus mountains above Sochi.

“We actually planned to open last month,” he said, explaining that the opening date had been put back “due to some  challenges we had here.”

“But our team is quite strong, quite [well] trained, so we can handle it from our side,” he said.

Not everyone is so confident. Some journalists arrived in Sochi to find their hotels were not ready and have been moved temporarily to accommodations elsewhere in the Black Sea resort.

Others are staying in barely finished rooms which smell of fresh paint, have no Internet connection and televisions that do not work. When some turned on the taps, the water was brown. Others had no hot water.

Although no athletes are affected, officials from two countries said they were turned away when they arrived at night in Krasnaya Polyana because their hotels were not ready. They too have been temporarily moved elsewhere.

The International Olympic Committee [IOC] has urged the Russian organizers to sort out the problems quickly and says only about three percent of the newly built accommodation - around 700 rooms - are not ready for guests.

“I have some travel experience and I know how embarrassing it is when you come after a long flight... and your room is not ready. So I feel for the people,” IOC President Thomas Bach said after touring facilities in the last few days.

“Always before the Games we have some issues to be addressed,” he said. “There is a great confidence and great satisfaction with what we have seen here.”

World's Biggest Construction Site

Sochi has for years been what Putin has called the world's biggest construction site, with new hotels being built with state and private money and an $8-billion rail and road link put in place to link Sochi and Krasnaya Polyana.

Dust and the sound of drilling still fill the air in some parts of the city, and cranes dot the skyline alongside the high-rise hotels, the golden cupolas of Russian Orthodox churches and state-of-the-art sport stadiums.

About 41,000 rooms are being provided for the Games and any failure to have them ready in time would be a potential blow to Putin's hopes that the Olympics will show how far Russia has come since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Despite the concerns about the accommodation, Bach said Russia had managed in seven years to transform an old-fashioned sub-tropical summer resort, once favored by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, into a modern all-year sport and tourism hub.

About 11,000 journalists are expected to cover the Games, which open on Friday and end on Feb. 23.

Gilbert Felli, the IOC Olympic Games Executive Director, dismissed talk of a “catastrophe” over accommodation and said anyone whose hotel was not ready had been moved for the time being to similar or better accommodation.

Asked whether the competitors' friends and families were facing similar problems, Felli said: “We have not had one [single] complaint.”
  • The Bolshoy Ice Dome illuminated at night in Sochi.
  • An aerial view from a helicopter shows the Olympic Park in the Adler district of the Black Sea resort city of Sochi.
  • The Iceberg skating arena and Fisht Olympic stadium in Sochi.
  • An inside view of the Adler arena speed skating venue in Sochi.
  • The RusSki Gorki Jumping Center in Sochi.
  • The Rosa Khutor ski resort, of Sochi.
  • An aerial view from a helicopter shows hotels and residential houses constructed for the 2014 Winter Olympics in the Adler district of Sochi.
  • The Bolshoy Ice Dome, Iceberg skating arena and the Fisht Olympic Stadium, Sochi.
  • The Sanki Sliding Center, east of Sochi.

You May Like

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Gay-marriage opponents are looking for ways to maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture, one writer says More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More