Vladimir Putin

Though more than 80 percent of the overall infrastructure for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics is done, Russian President Vladimir Putin slammed cost over-runs and delays – particularly at ski jumping facilities during an inspection this week. 


Akhmed Bilalov, vice president of the Russian Olympic Committee, was publicly rebuked and unceremoniously canned because the RusSki Gorki ski jump facility is two years behind schedule, still unfinished, and its cost has ballooned from an initial 1.2 billion rubles (US $40 million) to 8 billion rubles (US $265 million). The Games begin one year from now.


The delinquent contractor, a private company, just happens to belong to Bilalov. Oops. “So the guy is vice president of the country’s Olympic Committee? And he is doing that kind of job, dragging the project backwards?” Putin asked. Bilalov also heads another multi-billion-ruble project, the North Caucasus Resorts, creating “world class ski resorts in Russia’s south.”


But, aside from the ski jump fiasco, the International Olympic Committee inspection team headed by skiing legend Jean Claude Killy, is reportedly satisfied with progress, but pressed hard on the ski jump.


The Sochi Games are already the most costly Olympics ever – winter or summer. That’s largely explained because 85 percent of the infrastructure had to be built from scratch to replace Sochi’s decades out-of-date communications, roads, power stations, tunnels in the mountains and more. 


Meanwhile, the U.S. Olympic effort is reaching a readiness point. “One year out from the opening of the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, U.S. skiers and snowboarders are scattered across the globe anticipating the opportunities they will face 365 days from now,” writes the USSA’s Tom Kelly. “The opening ceremony for Sochi is Feb. 7, 2014 with the first medal events the next day. The USA is coming of a Best in the World Olympics in Vancouver that saw 17 different skiers and snowboarders win 21 medals.” 


Sochi will debut a number of new events including the inaugural appearance of women’s ski jumping, slopestyle snowboarding along with halfpipe and slopestyle skiing.


Freeskiing, freestyle and snowboarding athletes will compete in World Cup test events this month with U.S. Ski Team alpine racers conducting on-snow camps. Successful alpine test events were held a year ago. 


Alpine racers are competing this week and next in the FIS Alpine Ski World Championships in Schladming, Austria. American superstar Lindsey Vonn suffered serious knee damage in a super-G crash the first day of the Championships. She has vowed to be back and ready to compete in Sochi.


Photo: Russian President Vladimir Putin at RusSki Gorki.