Meeting With The Public Council For The Preparation Of The 2014 Winter Olympics



Published on 11 February 2014


by Presidential Press and Information Office

(WireNews+Co)

Sochi, Russia

Vladimir Putin met with representatives of the Public Council for the Preparation of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. The Council was established on the initiative of Sochi residents to voice their opinions on the issues of greatest importance for the city. 

The meeting was held at the Sochi Media Centre, which was opened for journalists not accredited at the Olympic Games. At the Centre, journalists can get all the latest news about the competitions and talk with athletes and visitors to the Olympics.

Before the meeting with the Public Council began, Vladimir Putin visited the Media Centre’s working area. Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov, who was accompanying the President, reported on infrastructure modernisation at the Sochi seaport (where the Media Centre is located) and the construction of a sea and cruise passenger terminal. The President also saw a model of a Formula 1 race track, which is expected to start hosting competitions as from October this year.

* * *

PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA VLADIMIR PUTIN: Good afternoon, friends,

I could call you colleagues really too, since we worked together on the Sochi project. I say that we worked together because I know from the reports from my aides and staff that after the Public Council was established it was in direct communication with the builders and the Games’ organisers and in one way or another influenced what was happening in the city as far as the residents’ interests were concerned.

I know that the residents have had to bear a burden during all of this work, and I thank them for bravely and patiently enduring all of this, but for all of the difficulties, the project has been a success overall. It has been a success in any case in that everything that we planned did indeed get built. The actual sports event itself is not over yet, and we must continue our work through to the closing of the Olympics, and then on through the Paralympics, but as far as preparing for holding these big events goes, the project has been completed. 

There are still a few things that need to be fully completed, it is true, and I will say a few words about this, but overall, a tremendous amount of work has been done. You probably heard and know that much of what was accomplished here was actually planned back in the late 1980s, when it was still the Soviet period. These plans were not linked to any sports events but were part of a project to develop southern Russia, then still the southern Soviet Union. The Soviet Union was 40 percent bigger than today’s Russia in terms of area and the size of its economy, but even a country as large as that was unable to carry out this project.  

Today, we have carried out this project and, as I have said many times, we used the Olympic Games as a reason for investing the needed resources into developing the Greater Sochi area and to a large extent this whole coastal region, though we have concentrated more on Sochi and the surrounding area of course.

I know that the people who lived right in the areas where today’s events are being held had many questions and problems. We tried to be as accommodating as possible in settling these issues, taking into account people’s interests and giving them sufficient compensation to ensure they would get decent housing to replace what they had before, on the sites where Olympic facilities were built. As far as I understand the situation, people have received housing of a quality much better than what they had before.

I do not know if there are still questions in this respect, but if there are, although the Olympic facilities’ construction is already complete now, I am willing to come back to these questions and discuss any issue concerning protection of Sochi residents’ interests and the interests of concrete individuals who lived or live in particular areas.

The second thing we have achieved is significantly improving infrastructure. I suppose I don’t even need to talk about it; you can see it for yourselves. Before, we had all these plans on paper, or even on the ground, but it was unclear how it would appear; but now it is clear. We have invested a truly large amount of money. We will not talk now about whether these were excessive sums. Let the supervisory bodies address this; they will continue to look into it.

What’s important is that it has been built and it is functioning. And I very much hope that this will serve people for many decades to come, and perhaps even centuries, same as in several European nations where this kind of infrastructure (as members of the International Olympic Committee have stated), took 100 to 150 years to build. We have succeeded in building it in six or seven years. It includes highways, railroads up to the mountains and railroad infrastructure improvements in Sochi itself, the construction of railroad station complexes – a new one in Adler and several stations along the railway up to the mountains. And all of it has been created at the most modern technological level.

We have improved energy supply. You already know, of course, that we have built two gas pipelines: one at the bottom of the Black Sea and another in the mountains. And local residents are well aware that electricity supply has basically been disrupted every winter, because there were constant breaks in the mountains. I hope we will now minimise the risks of these adverse events, since we now have a gas supply here and we have created new energy infrastructure – I am referring to the new power station and eight substations, as well as new grids. Although here, too, much remains to be done.

What’s very important is improving the environmental situation. According to some indicators, things have improved many-fold. For example, the air quality has improved three- or four-fold. Even the quality of water in the Mzymta river has improved significantly. Why? Because we created the transport infrastructure I talked about. You know what the roads leading to the mountains were like: winding and dangerous. But their being dangerous was not the problem, although that is also very important; the roads were bad because people would brake sharply and so this increased emissions. When you have a modern, straight road, cars travel with minimal emissions into the atmosphere. The same is with railways. This type of transport is fairly environmentally friendly, and as it can transport a significant number of people, these people don’t use cars, which helps the environment.

And of course, we have the port. You have seen the new port we built in the Imeretin Bay. The airport has been renovated and a new building has been constructed. So I think we can achieve the goal we set for ourselves, to turn the city of Sochi into a year-round resort, so people can holiday here any season, summer or winter, using this improved road and railway infrastructure to reach the mountains. Now, even people who come to spend their winter holidays in the mountains can take advantage of the hotels located here, in the city of Sochi itself.

As for hotels, you are also well aware that we increased hotel capacity two-fold. Today, Sochi hotels can accommodate 41,000 guests, compared to approximately 24,000 we had earlier; the number has essentially doubled. And I would like to point out that these are new, modern hotels and, importantly, they include major international hotel chains, which are providing a high, international, European level of service and are creating the conditions for people to change their habits from vacationing at other resorts in this same Black Sea and Mediterranean region to coming here.

Last year, a record number of Russian tourists visited Turkey: 4 million people. This has to do with the events happening in the Middle East, including in Egypt – the number of tourists there is decreasing. I suppose it is not without reason that people are afraid of going there, but fortunately, the situation in Turkey is stable. Still, it would be nice to reorient a significant part of that flow through economic methods, rather than administrative ones (closing off and not letting people go), by really creating new, more favourable conditions for vacationing, first and foremost, for Russian citizens, in their own country.

Incidentally, international experts in the hospitality industry, tourism and sports are pointing out that unlike many similar places, Russia now has a certain advantage. This advantage lies in the latest technology we used in building the corresponding structures, buildings, and sports infrastructure. Everything was done using the most modern equipment and the most cutting-edge technology and materials, which makes Sochi stand out favourably compared to other resorts around the world, including European ones, at least at this stage.

That is what I wanted to state at the beginning. But I wanted to meet with you to thank you for our joint work. And I know that during your contacts with your colleagues, including Mr Kozak [deputy prime minister responsible for holding the 2014 Winter Olympics] with whom you met recently, you have been constantly discussing and raising various questions. And if any ideas come up during these discussions, which you feel are important to implement here or in other Russian regions, let’s discuss those ideas. Although Sochi-related matters are certainly on the agenda, we will now have the very important question of the so-called Olympic legacy. It is important that we use everything that was built here in the last six to seven years wisely and effectively, so that the flow of tourists will increase.

Just now, I was told there are currently 86 large ships chartered here in Sochi – each capable of taking 2.5-3 thousand passengers. Just a few days ago, there were applications from only 32 ships, but now, we have 86; so the interest in Sochi is booming. And we must understand what features and perks of Sochi itself will attract people, aside from the newest infrastructure – and not just immediately following the Olympics. You know, when the Olympics are over, people are always interested: where was it, what does it look like? And people who didn’t make it to the Olympics are happy to make the trip. But it is important for all of it to continue in the years and perhaps even decades to come.

Let’s discuss this, please.

 


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Posted 2014-02-11 09:57:00