An innovative concept and the enthusiastic backing of Russian President Vladimir Putin were key factors in the surprise decision to award the 2014 Winter Games to Russia’s Sochi, officials said on Wednesday.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) had to choose between tradition represented by Austria’s Salzburg, an Asian destination with South Korea’s Pyeongchang, and Sochi’s seashore and mountain concept.
IOC members who voted 51 to 47 in favour of Sochi over Pyeongchang after Salzburg had been eliminated in the first round, said the Russian bid offered a new option for the Winter Olympics.
”We had the choice between tradition [Salzburg] or, on the other hand, Sochi with a project of a new and innovative centre,” IOC vice-president Thomas Bach told Reuters.
”Pyeongchang was in the middle, and the majority of members chose the new solution.”
Sochi, on the shores of the Black Sea with a palm tree-lined coast, built a bid around the city’s mild climate and the nearby Krasnaya Polyana snow-capped mountain range, incorporating two separate sports clusters.
”They have a fantastic project,” IOC member Sergey Bubka of Ukraine said. ”This idea to organise a concept around the sea and the mountains is a very good project.”
Prince Albert of Monaco, another IOC member, said it was exactly that idea which had appealed to members.
”There was originality in the bid. The seafront and mountains in one was very good,” he said.
The concept maY have been unusual and attractive — though the majority of venues still need to be built — but it would probably not have succeeded were it not for Sochi’s most famous regular visitor.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, an ardent skier and owner of a holiday home in the area, had been a vocal supporter of the bid throughout the campaign.
He even flew to Guatemala to spend two days with IOC members and convince them of the bid’s quality.
His speech at the final presentation to the IOC hours before the vote was delivered in English, a rare concession by a man who only recently started to learn the language.
”Putin was here and he impressed. He made a fanatastic speech and the whole work was very professional,” Bubka said. ”Putin spent two days here and this was important.” – Reuters