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www.wmfd.com - The Olympics are a little more than four months away, and Sochi, Russia is getting a major facelift. }}" />

   
 
 
Sochi, Russia Gearing Up For the Winter Olympics

Story By: Larry Stine

 

 

 
 
 
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  Original Published: 11/1/2013 The Olympics are a little more than four months away. And Sochi, Russia is getting a major facelift. CNN's Phil Black has more on the new sports venues and the big plans to overhaul the city. Sochi's Olympic bid had one fairly significant weakness, no existing sporting facilities. Organizers have tried to turn that into a strength by designing from scratch the ideal model for an Olympic host city. This is what they came up with, two venue clusters, one by the coast, one in the mountains, a new road and rail line linking the two. Compact, efficient, no big travel times between venues. "As the calendar hits the 100 day countdown mark that design is almost a reality," says CNN's Phil Black. "While on the ground it still looks pretty rough and there's a frenzy of painting, landscaping to get the place looking right, all the sports venues have been built and tested. But work on one big piece of infrastructure is really letting the side down and it's kind of important." The Fisht Stadium, the stage for the opening ceremony, doesn't look like it's going to be ready soon. Sochi's unpredictable weather and the people directing the opening ceremony have forced big changes on the design during construction. It was supposed to be open, with views of the sea on one side, mountains on the other, but it's now getting a roof. Venue manager Roman Kostenko isn't worried. He says it will be finished by the end of November and the opening ceremony will be unforgettable, even with limited rehearsal time. But Russia isn't a country known for its efficiency. Building all this on time will be a statement to the world. It's why Russian President Vladimir Putin is taking such personal interest. "I try not to think about it," he says. Dmitry Grigriev manages the speed skaing arena. He says Putin's direct oversight has made a big difference. "Oh yeah. And I'm not going to say why or how. But it has, believe me," says Grigriev. "You're seeing things happen?" "Yes." "Quickly, efficiently, perhaps in a way they wouldn't have happened otherwise?" "Yes. Very much so." Getting the venues ready isn't Sochi's only challenge. The whole city was rundown, neglected, with little investment since the Soviet era. It's getting a major overhaul, which doesn't look like it could possibly be ready soon. The skyline is a mess of cranes and partially completed buildings, many of them much-needed hotels. And then there's the traffic. Ask any local, it's often appalling. Sochi's Mayor, Anatoloy Pakhomov, is fimly on Team Putin. He says the president's hand is felt everywhere. Soon to be opened roads and rail lines will fix the traffic. The hotels will be ready and Olympic investment generally has renewed the city in a way that wouldn't have been possible without the games. There are some unusual sights around this Olympic city. Like this mysterious and growing military facility near the coastal venues. Security, always a big Olympic concern, even more so here. Islamic militants fighting an insurgency not far from Sochi have sworn to disrupt the games. And on the naked, pre-winter ski slopes you see these huge silver mounds. In this technically subtropical climate, snowfall can be patchy. So organizers are storing vast amounts of last season's snow just in case. Russia is promising an Olympics unlike any the world has seen. So different is this city from prevous hosts, so great the challenges, it would be difficult not to deliver on that promise.
   
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