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Sochi games boss in 2014 Olympic marathon

Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics president Dmitry Chernyshenko
Image caption Sochi 2014 boss Dmitry Chernyshenko says he has learned from London 2012

The organisers of the London 2012 Olympics may feel they have their work cut out, but Dmitry Chernyshenko - boss of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics - is facing a mammoth task.

His team is having to help transform the Black Sea resort of Sochi, and its surrounding area, into a wintersports arena.

It means the construction of a new winter community in the North Caucasus mountains, the construction of 300 kilometres of roads, 100km of rail, 39 tunnels and 24 thermal and hydro power stations.

"We are well on track," asserts Mr Chernyshenko, a native of Sochi who was handed the games' baton five years ago.

"Our construction site is now probably competing in terms of size with London's," he says.

"It is a most challenging situation."

'Pleased and satisfied'

A few weeks ago organisers provided an update to the president of the Russian Federation, Dmitry Medvedev, on a visit to Sochi region.

And, according to Mr Chernyshenko, the president was satisfied with progress to date.

Image caption A huge building programme is under way around Sochi in the south of Russia

Mr Medvedev and organisers discussed ways of overcoming any raising of global temperatures, which could potentially leaving Sochi facing some of the problems that hit the Winter Games in Vancouver in February his year.

Those games suffered weather postponements and delays at the alpine events in Whistler, and cancellation of 28,000 standing-room tickets at Cypress Mountain due to warm weather and lack of snow.

"The Vancouver winter games allowed us to learn a lot about how unpredictable weather can be, they had not had weather like that for 130 years," observes Mr Chernyshenko, a graduate of the Moscow State Technological University.

To tackle such possibilities, Sochi organisers are planning to use an artificial snow system called "hot snow" to ensure ideal conditions are guaranteed.

"One of the most crucial facts for success is rehearsal and more rehearsal, to create comprehensive test events," adds Mr Chernyshenko.

Alpine cup

Test events are due to start three years prior to the games, beginning in early 2011.

Mr Chernyshenko says they will hold 74 test events, "more than any other previous organisers of a world sporting events".

"We are looking at world championships and cups, including the European Cup for alpine skiing in 2011," he says.

Next February at Rosa Khutor, near the village of Krasnaya Polyana outside Sochi, the FIS European Cup in alpine skiing will be staged as the 2014 games' first test event.

The mountain venues, such as that at Rosa Khutor, which is owned by mining and real estate conglomerate Interros, belong to private investors

Meanwhile, the combined stadium for the biathlon belongs to Russian energy giant Gazprom.

In addition, Telman Ismailov, a Russian entrepreneur and businessman, is investing $800m in Sochi, in two luxury hotels with 4,000 rooms.

And Russian Railways is spending an additional $8.5bn on a new rail system.

All these private initiatives have helped ease the strain on the games budget.

'Marketing programme'

There have been reports of government ministers saying that overall games investment is close to 950bn roubles ($31bn; £20bn).

Image caption Sochi has been selling itself to private investors

But Mr Chernyshenko says the construction and infrastructure budget is 185bn roubles, with about half of that coming from private investors.

And he says the budget for staging the actual games event is 60bn roubles.

"The main questions since 2005 have been about the budget," he admits.

"But funding for staging the event will come from our highly successful marketing programme."

Podium places

This programme sees sponsors provided with exclusive opportunities around the games "to realise their marketing goals".

"For example our partner in the oil category, Rosneft, the biggest oil producer in Russia; they are supplying fuel for Olympic construction," says Mr Chernyshenko.

Image caption Mr Chernyshenko says Russia must win medals to enhance support for the games

Similarly, the event's banking partner is Sberbank, which holds the bank accounts of the suppliers.

Other firms, such as mobile phone partner Megafon, are being given similarly favourable opportunities in return for their investment.

National pride

Another important lesson from the 2010 Vancouver games was the importance of a successful national sporting performance.

"Without the national team on the podium the games will not be considered successful," Mr Chernyshenko says.

"Preparation is also a key factor," he continues.

"The London experience has been a major factor for us; from the beginning we were guided by London's 2012 bid.

"This is a good thing about the Olympic Games, there are no secrets and knowledge is shared."

The region around Sochi will benefit from the infrastructure, such as new roads and technology, which is put in place for the games, he reasons.

In addition, he says the area is enjoying interest from investors and the federal government is creating opportunities for investment.

However, some questions have been raised about the games, one of the biggest being about security.

Sochi is just north of the border of the breakaway region of Abkhazia in Georgia. And the volatile republic of Chechnya lies due east.

"Security is the number one priority for the organising committee," declares Mr Chernyshenko.

"Russia is a very powerful country and will provide the tightest security."

'Environmental measures'

At the same time there have been ongoing worries about the environmental impact of the construction around the event.

Image caption Mr Chernyshenko (right) has been showing Olympic powerbrokers around the Sochi site

There have been claims of ecosystems being damaged and wildlife habitats destroyed.

But Mr Chernyshenko insists organisers are taking the measures needed to protect the environment.

And the United Nations Environment Programme recently said there was "a strong feeling that Sochi 2014 will be successful" in environmental protection.

Meanwhile Mr Chernyshenko also points to the reintroduction of the snow leopard in the region as a successful legacy of the games.

That, as well as the infrastructure legacy and a new image for his country are Mr Chernyshenko's major aims for 2014.

A games which he believes will also show the world the "new modern Russia".

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