Alarm bells ringing in Olympic construction zone

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 2, 2014 at 1:37 pm •  Published: February 2, 2014
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KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Construction workers ignored the blaring alarm in Gorki Plaza on Sunday, tuning out the loud hoot-hoot-hoot and automated voice that urged guests to evacuate.

That was a fire drill — a requirement ahead of building approval — but alarm bells of a more figurative kind are ringing louder and louder for the organizers of the Sochi Olympics.

It's almost impossible to pin down how many hotels will be finished ahead of the Winter Games, which officially open Friday.

Gorki Plaza was always supposed to be a hive of activity, an accommodation and transport hub for thousands of visitors to Olympic venues in the mountains above Sochi. It just wasn't supposed to be a hive of building activity this late. And that has Olympic leaders worried.

IOC President Thomas Bach was given a status update on accommodation by local organizers at an executive board meeting Sunday.

"There is a great confidence and great satisfaction with what we have seen here," Bach said. "Of course, ... always before the games, we have some issues to be addressed. We received information that this will be addressed, but in general for the athletes the stage is set for great performances, both with regards to the villages and with regards to the sports facilities."

But the accommodation situation for non-athletes threatened to become a major embarrassment for organizers when some Olympic-accredited people were turned away in recent days from unfinished hotels, or checked into unfinished rooms.

Organizers estimate that thousands of media will be arriving in Sochi on Monday. About 11,000 overall are expected to be covering Russia's first Winter Games. Spectators are expected to flood in later in the week.

IOC spokesman Mark Adams conceded there were hotels that weren't finished.

"That doesn't mean they're empty shells with no beds or whatever," he said, adding that 41,000 rooms were being provided for the Sochi Games and, of those, 20,000 were brand new.

"I also understand not a single person has gone without a room," he said. "All round, I think I can assure you that people will get the rooms they need."

Local organizers said Saturday that only six of the nine media hotels in the mountain cluster were finished, and gave a timetable Sunday for others to be opened this week.

"Ninety-seven percent of these rooms are already welcoming guests and the remainder are currently undergoing final testing before being available for visitors before the games starts," organizers said.

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