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

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid