News

Olympic price tag tops $50 billion

Olympic price tag tops $50 billion

BIG BILL: The cost of the Sochi games is expected to top $50 billion. An aerial view from a helicopter shows the Olympic Park under construction in the Adler district of the Black Sea resort city. Photo: Reuters

By Karolos Grohmann

BERLIN (Reuters) – The $50-billion price tag for the Sochi Olympics is a “bad example” for future candidate cities but Russia’s first Winter Games will be secure despite mounting safety concerns, international skiing chief Gian-Franco Kasper said on Friday.

The Swiss sports administrator, who has been critical of the Sochi Games in the past, said such investment in the two-week event and in related infrastructure projects would scare off traditional winter sports nations and damage the brand.

“It is an enormous cost. It could be that Sochi is more expensive than Beijing 2008 which was the much bigger summer Games,” International skiing federation (FIS) president Kasper told Reuters in a telephone interview.

Beijing cost an estimated $40 billion though the exact cost of staging the summer Games in China is not known.

“Those costs in Sochi are enormous and a bad example for future candidates. Most nations cannot afford it. Switzerland, France could never afford such amounts. Particularly for winter games,” the 69-year-old said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has staked his personal political prestige on staging a successful Olympics, which officials said would cost $50 billion.

Kasper did praise the Russians’ ability to construct an entire industry out of the ground and surrounding mountains in less than a decade.

MASSIVE CONSTRUCTION

“We have to see that what we did in the Alps we needed 150 years and they had to do it in five years. If you see that then it shocks you,” he said.

“But the Games will be terrific and we will have the most modern venues you can imagine. The expectations are good.”

He also said that despite recent suicide bomb attacks in the southern city of Volgograd that killed 34, Sochi will be secure for athletes and visitors though the atmosphere may suffer.

“The big thing with security for all events in the mountain area is that they (organizers) cut the number of spectators by almost 50 percent in the past two years. That of course makes it very difficult and really does not help to create a special atmosphere,” he said.

The Games open on February 7 in the Black Sea resort on the western edge of the Caucasus mountains where insurgents want to carve out an Islamic state.

Russian forces have gone on combat alert this week in Sochi and about 37,000 personnel are now in place to provide security at the Games.

“I am convinced Sochi will be the safest place in the world during the Olympics,” Kasper said.

“We know they (authorities) will be bureaucratic, not very flexible and then there is the language barrier. But we know that we need security. We know there is a terrorism problem not only in Russia but all over the world.”

He said the atmosphere in the venues could be affected by the local fans’ lack of deep interest for winter sports other than ice hockey.

“We know we might have a problem with ambiance because the Games are in an area where there are not really winter sports.”

But he was quick to shrug off the absence of American skier Lindsey Vonn, whose withdrew injured, has deprived the Sochi Games of arguably the most famous face in the blue riband event of Alpine skiing.

“We have of course some top starts that are missing but after the Games we have new winners and no one will talk about anyone else,” said Kasper.

(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

Recent Headlines

in Entertainment

Lena Dunham and Kate Mara hit by a falling sign

Fresh
Lena Dunham, of HBO's "Girls," arrives at the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards held at The Nokia Theatre  in Los Angeles.

The "Girls" and "House of Cards" actresses saw stars of their own after an accident at a Venice premiere.

in Lifestyle

Rice replaces ice in India bucket challenge

Fresh
An Indian school boy eats a midday meal provided free at a government school in Hyderabad, India, Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013. India has offered free midday school meals since the 1960s in an effort to persuade poor parents to send their children to school, a program that reaches some 120 million children. The country now plans to subsidize wheat, rice and cereals for some 800 million people under a $20 billion scheme to cut malnutrition and ease poverty.

The famous "ice bucket" challenge is inspiring thousands of Indians to follow suit, but with a twist - they are replacing ice with rice to help the country's hungry people.

in Entertainment

Charges dropped against Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s suspected drug dealer

In this Jan. 19, 2014 photo, Philip Seymour Hoffman poses for a portrait at The GenArt Quaker Good Energy Lodge during the Sundance Film Festival, in Park City, Utah. Hoffman, who won the Oscar for best actor in 2006 for his portrayal of writer Truman Capote in "Capote," was found dead Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014, in his New York apartment. He was 46.

Drug-selling charges against a friend of late film star Philip Seymour Hoffman have been dropped after officers neglected to read the suspect his Miranda rights.

in Entertainment

Hayao Miyazaki, Harry Belafonte among winners of honorary Oscars

"Ponyo" director Hayao Miyazaki poses for a portrait in Los Angeles on Tuesday, July 28, 2009.

The Academy announces the recipients of this year's Governors Awards. See who made the list!

in Entertainment

Robert Downey, Jr. calls ‘Guardians’ the best Marvel movie ever

In this image released by Paramount Pictures, Robert Downey Jr. stars as billionaire industrialist Tony Stark aka Iron Man in the film, “Iron Man.”** NO SALES **

Iron Man's Robert Downey Jr. flies past his own ego with claims that this summer's "Guardians of the Galaxy" is the Marvel movie to beat.