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

Will Cuba Follow the Southeast Asia Model?

Decision to restore ties between US and Cuba has some debating whether it will lead to an enhancement or regression of democracy on the Communist island nation More

Kenyan Designer Finds Her Niche in Fashion Industry

‘Made in China’ fabrics underlie her success More

Report: CIA, Israel's Mossad Killed Senior Hezbollah Commander

The Washington Post story says Imad Mughniyah was killed instantly by a bomb "triggered remotely" from Tel Aviv by Mossad agents More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Lateri
X
Deborah Block
January 31, 2015 12:12 AM
Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Later

Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

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

All About America

AppleAndroid