Sochi, Russia to host 2014 Winter Olympics

Friday, July 6, 2007

The International Olympic Committee awarded the XXII Winter Olympics, to be held in 2014, to Sochi, Russia, a resort city near the Black Sea, in Guatemala City yesterday defeating Pyeongchang, South Korea, by just four votes. Salzburg, Austria, was eliminated in the first round by 25 votes.

According to the Associated Press, several factors played a part in Sochi's win. One factor was that of Russian president Vladimir Putin himself. Putin, an avid skier and a black belt in judo, traveled to Guatemala to lobby IOC members and headed up the final presentation of Sochi's bid to the assembly.

"Putin being here was very important, he worked very hard at it. He was nice. He spoke French -- he never speaks French. He spoke English -- he never speaks English," said French IOC member and former ski champion Jean-Claude Killy.

Patrick Hickey, an Irish member of the IOC agreed. "There's no doubt that President Putin's presence was a massive influence, his performance was superb. He was humble. He spoke in English and French. The second most powerful man in the world said everything will be delivered."

Juan Antonio Samaranch, former IOC president and Spanish ambassador to Russia made a big push for Sochi, which may have swung some key votes according to some IOC members.

"This is, without doubt, not just a recognition of Russia's sporting achievements but it is, beyond any doubt, a judgment on our country, it is a recognition of our growing capability, first of all economically and socially," Putin stated upon his return to Russia.

Another factor is Russia's brand new wealth from exports of Russian natural gas and oil, which provided over $12 billion for Putin to invest in the Games and the infrastructure around Sochi.

Russia last hosted the games in 1980 in Moscow, when the country was known as the Soviet Union. The games were boycotted by the United States and some of its allies over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

The United States continues to spar with Russia over human rights abuses and the subjugation of democratic freedoms.

U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack spoke in Washington to reporters stating, "Well, it's a proud moment for Russia and I am sure it's a proud moment for him so he can characterize it as he sees fit, I'm not sure that the selection of Russia to host the Winter Olympics really, at this point, changes our view or others' views -- or concerns -- about the direction of democracy and related issues: human rights, respect for freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and to be able to peaceably organize opposition democratic parties."

Meanwhile, Sochi has announced that progress of construction on venues in Sochi will be offered online. Dmitri Chernyshenko, Sochi 2014's bid leader said, "The IOC will be online every single moment in terms of construction, there will be live video from all construction sites."

The next Olympic bid is for the 2016 Summer Olympics which includes bids from Chicago, Tokyo, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro, Doha, Baku, and Prague.