Russia » Politics
Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov

Russia's Sochi to host Winter Olympics in 2014 owing to Putin's efforts

Sochi’s victory in the Winter Olympics 2014 bid became possible to President Putin’s efforts, observers say. Putin was doing his best to promote the Russian city, which obviously produced a big impression on the members of the International Olympic Committee. It is not ruled out that Putin may return to the presidential position in 2012 to open the Olympic Games in 2014 in Sochi. “Are you going to return as the president in 2012 to open the Olympics in Sochi?” a reporter asked Putin at a press conference. “Well, it is very early to plan this,” Putin replied.

Fireworks boomed in the sky to celebrate Sochi's selection as the site of the 2014 Olympics, and Russians' hearts filled with pride, confident their long-beleaguered land has finally overcome its troubles.

"It means that Russia has reached the level of Europe, and we can be proud of our country," said Marina Matveyeva, a 23-year-old bank employee who was one of more than an estimated 15,000 people who jammed a central square Thursday for the pre-dawn announcement.

Tamara Zaporozhets, a 24-year-old curtain designer, gave the sentiment some cocky street spin: "We are the best in the whole world. Sochi rocks!"

Officials praised Sochi's victory as a boost to Russia's prestige on the international arena - a much needed push for a country that has faced increased criticism of its democracy and human-rights record.

"Sochi's election as the capital of the 2014 Olympic Games is another proof of our country's authority in the world, of a country which is stable, predictable and in this context sportive," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin told the ITAR-Tass news agency.

Russia, which hosted the 1980 Moscow Games, has never held a Winter Olympics.

Two previous tries by Sochi failed. A bid for the 1998 games was withdrawn early in the decade amid the economic deterioration during the last months of the Soviet Union's existence. Its try for the 2002 games didn't make the final round, due to concerns about the almost-total absence of facilities.

Sochi still must build nearly every venue new. But this time, bid promoters pushed that as an asset, saying the construction would mean the Olympic movement would get its most modern games ever.

Russian officials also emphasized that the new Olympic facilities would become a national sports training center.

"We are so happy - both young and old. It is such a boost for our youth," said Yelena Maximova, a 52-year-old retiree, as thousands cheered, hugged and danced to celebrate Sochi's victory.

President Vladimir Putin's government has undertaken a program to spend billions developing the Sochi region.

He capped his influential backing with an impressive appearance before the International Olympic Committee hours before the vote, making lengthy remarks in English - a language to which he usually limits himself to only a few sentences. He added some passable French, too.

Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov said Putin telephoned IOC president Jacques Rogge from an airplane as he was returning to Russia to thank him for the IOC's impartial decision and confirm all work will be completed in good time.

"Our president is the best!" exclaimed Sochi resident Yana Malashenko after the vote announcement.

Despite the festivities in Sochi, some Russians were dismayed, particularly environmentalists who say the massive construction of sports facilities in the mountains and along the Black Sea coast will cause severe damage to delicate ecosystems.

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