Sochi Games Open On Friday But Not Everything Is Completed
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Workers in the Russian resort town of Sochi are scrambling to put the finishing touches on President Vladimir Putin's multibillion dollar Winter Olympics. The 2014 Winter Olympics officially open on Friday, but it looks like some of the elements, including hotel rooms, may not be ready. NPR's Corey Flintoff reports from Sochi.
COREY FLINTOFF, BYLINE: Hundreds of young volunteers are lined up outside an administration building in Sochi's Olympic Park, waiting to get their assignments. Many of the volunteers are already wearing their Olympic gear, multi-colored jumpers and ball caps that will identify them to the thousands of fans who will be here in the next few days.
They're not supposed to talk to the press, but this is Tatyana, a student from Moscow.
TATYANA: We're at the languages services function and we'll be trying to help people interpreting. We'll try to do all of this.
FLINTOFF: But though Tatyana and her friends are ready for their part in the show, there are a lot of other elements that aren't ready. The big worry right now is hotel rooms, especially in the mountain area, where the skiing, snowboarding and bobsledding will be held. There are construction cranes hulking over unfinished hotels, and stacks of construction materials in the streets.
Olympic officials say rather testily that everyone who comes will find a room ready, but some early arrivals are complaining that those rooms are shoddily constructed and that amenities, such as Wi-Fi, still aren't functioning. One thing that is functioning is the security. There's a new, efficient and comfortable rail system that takes visitors from downtown Sochi to the two Olympic villages, one by the Black Sea shore and the other in the nearby mountains.
(SOUNDBITE FROM TRAIN STATION P.A. SYSTEM)
FLINTOFF: But to get onto that train, passengers will need to undergo a security check that's as rigorous as any airport inspection, including a full-body pat-down by police. One worry is that time-consuming security checks will bring the flow of visitors to a crawl. Still, for the volunteers at the Olympic staging area, the mood is one of excitement and promise. This is Svetlana, a speech teacher from Moscow.
SVETLANA: We are part of the history and we're going to meet the athletes, and I never met anyone who was an Olympic champion, and this is a great chance. I'm excited.
FLINTOFF: Once the competition starts, a lot of unfinished details may not seem so important after all. Corey Flintoff, NPR News, Sochi. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.