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Russian ski resort at center of Olympic bid in embarrassing shutdown ahead of IOC visit

Russian ski resort at center of Olympic bid in embarrassing shutdown ahead of IOC visit

The Russian ski resort bidding to host the 2014 Winter Olympics was locked in a bitter dispute with authorities Thursday amid claims of heavy-handed official tactics to seize control of the business.
The conflict, which shut down the Sochi resort for 48 hours this week, came just weeks ahead of a crucial visit by an International Olympic Committee evaluation commission.
Sochi is competing against Salzburg, Austria, and Pyeongchang, South Korea, for the 2014 Games. The IOC will select the host city on July 4 in Guatemala City.
The private company that operates ski lifts at the Krasnaya Polyana ski complex suspended its activities from Monday to Wednesday after a series of safety checks it claims are aimed at wresting control of the lucrative site.
Krasnaya Polyana, in the mountains east of Sochi, would be a ski venue at the 2014 Games.
Pyotr Fedin, head of the Alpika-Servis company, branded the actions of local authorities as "a pure corporate raid."
He told The Associated Press the regional administration had indicated that Alpika-Servis should "hand over 50 percent to it, but now apparently they want complete control."
"All this will affect Sochi's international image as the IOC inspectors come here," Fedin said.
The shutdown came after fire, sanitary and other inspectors descended on the resort beginning Jan. 3 and found multiple violations. Regional authorities said the inspections were linked to preparations for the Feb. 20-23 visit by the IOC's evaluation commission.
The Sochi bid committee welcomed the reopening of the lifts, saying this "testifies to the safety of the sport infrastructure in Krasnaya Polyana." It described the checks as a local initiative that was not connected to the Olympic bid.
Fedin said Alpika-Servis had no choice but to suspend operations, although authorities of the Krasnodar region that includes Sochi accused him of seeking to attract attention at a time when Russian President Vladimir Putin and top ministers were in Sochi, where the Russian presidency has a residence.
"The checks uncovered a number of violations at facilities of Alpika-Servis," said Natalia Mamon, an aide to Krasnodar's deputy governor. "We asked them to sort these problems out, not stage strikes."
Putin, who goes skiing at Krasnaya Polyana every year, has thrown his weight behind the bid. And Russia has touted a US$12 billion (euro9.2 billion) government-backed plan to develop the region's infrastructure.
Sochi says it would offer the most compact games in history, with the ice sports venues in the city and the ski venues at Krasnaya Polyana within 40 minutes by road or train.
Regional officials deny any pressure on Alpika-Servis.
"There is no campaign against them," said an official in the Krasnodar region's administration, who did not want to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.
However, Gennady Shvets, spokesman for the Russian Olympic Committee, indicated that Alpika-Servis was not the right company to prepare for the Olympics should Sochi win the bid.
"They're not up to it. This is too important to leave in the hands of a small firm which doesn't have the financial or organizational resources. More heavyweight structures need to get involved," he said.
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Associated Press writer Henry Meyer in Moscow contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-06-13 23:05 GMT+08:00