Olympics: Russia 'kept its word': deputy PM

Artists perform during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics.

SOCHI, Russia - Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak on Saturday touted the success of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, saying they broke "the ice of scepticism" about modern Russia as the organisers fulfilled all their promises.

One day before the Sochi Games close after over two weeks of competition, Kozak said Russia had implemented every one of the pledges made by President Vladimir Putin when he successfully bid for the Olympics in 2007.

"The ice of the scepticism towards the new Russia has been broken," said Kozak. "The Games have made the country, the culture, and the people a little closer and more understandable for the world." "Many said the commitments we took on back then seemed fantastical and impossible to fulfil. Now you have seen that Russia can keep its word," he added.

Ahead of Kozak's remarks, organisers played Putin's famous address to the International Olympic Committee at its session in Guatemala in 2007 when, in sometimes painfully-accented English, he asked the IOC to accept the bid.

Putin then guaranteed that the facilities would be built on time and promised "a really spectacular event".

The IOC's executive director for the Olympic Games, Gilbert Felli, said that the Sochi Olympics have been "of a very high level".

"What the bid committed in 2007 has been delivered," he added.

When it presented the bid in 2007, Sochi did not have a single winter sports facility that would have been able to host an Olympic event.

But racing against the clock, Russia built wholly new stadiums on undeveloped land by the Black Sea coast south of the city and in the almost virgin mountains above.

The US$50 billion (S$63.38 billion) price tag for the Games has made them the most expensive ever and raised concerns of needless excess in some quarters.

But Kozak said that most of the money was spent on long-term infrastructure improvements for the Sochi region and the actual cost for the Russian taxpayer of building facilities was only US$3.5 billion.

Environmentalists have slammed the ecological cost of the Games, which they say have ruined an area of huge ecological importance with the frenetic construction.

But Kozak argued the effects on the environment were "local in nature and very short term" and the environmental situation in Sochi was now better than before the Olympics bid.

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