Preparations are continuing apace in Sochi ahead of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, as the Russian resort readies itself to welcome the world’s finest winter sports stars in just over one year’s time.
On 7 February next year, the Olympic cauldron will be lit in Sochi’s newly built Fisht Stadium to signal the start of the Games, and excitement is already building in Russia – and across the world.
Situated on the south-west tip of Russia, on the northern shore of the Black Sea, Sochi has long been known as one of the country’s most popular holiday resorts thanks to its warm climate and palm-fringed beach. But the city is currently undergoing a huge transformation that will turn it into a premier winter sports destination, with new venues being constructed both in Sochi and the surrounding mountains of Krasnaya Polyana.
“The preparations are going well and everybody is working incredibly hard to make sure that we reach all of our targets,” explains Sochi 2014 President and CEO Dmitry Chernyshenko. “We have received positive feedback at every stage. We are entering the final phase of preparations. The sports venues are close to completion and life in Sochi is very exciting at the moment.”
Much of the work has already been completed, with several of the region’s new venues playing host to major events over the current winter sports season, including the ISU Figure Skating Grand Prix Final, which was held at the Iceberg Skating Palace in December. The venue drew praise from several competitors, including Meryl Davis, of the USA, who won the ice dance event with her partner Charlie White.
"It's a beautiful arena and the atmosphere here is just fantastic," she said. "We've been to Moscow several times but this is our first visit to Sochi. Everything feels great."
The Sochi 2014 Organising Committee has also released details of the Olympic Torch Relay, which will begin in October, covering 65,000km of Russian soil and being carried by around 14,000 Torchbearers, while the Sochi Volunteer Programme has received more than 140,000 applications, with 80 per cent of the places already filled.
The city’s infrastructure is also undergoing a transformation ahead of the Games, with 367km of new roads, 201km of railways and several new hotels set to provide a lasting legacy once the Games have finished.
All the work carried out so far has drawn praise from the IOC’s Coordination Commission for Sochi 2014, which concluded its latest visit in October.
“The venues have come a long way in a relatively short period since our last visit here,” said Jean-Claude Killy, Chairman of the Coordination Commission, in October. “We have also been impressed with the advances made in hotel construction and, in particular, transport. It all bodes well for a successful season of test events ahead, as well as for a great legacy left behind for the local population.”
Sochi is set to host several more major events in the coming months including World Cup events in speed skating, cross-country skiing, snowboard, biathlon and luge, which are set to raise excitement levels even higher as preparations for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games enter the home straight.