Sochi takes another step towards 2014 Olympics

Alexander Ovechkin, one of the world’s foremost ice hockey players, has been named the first official Sochi 2014 Olympic Games ambassador.

On the second anniversary of the Russian resort city of Sochi being awarded the 2014 winter Olympic Games, the local organising team, SOCOG, have announced Alexander Ovechkin, one of the world’s foremost ice hockey players, as the first official Games ambassador.

Ovechkin was an integral part of the celebrations – known locally as the ‘Sochi – Yes!‘ festival – to mark two years since the International Olympic Committee voted for a Russian Games. “I was here at the same time last year,“ he said as he inspected progress in the city. “Honestly, the city is changing very quickly. And I am particularly pleased that the construction of hockey arenas has already begun.“ Ovechkin competed at the Turin 2006 Olympic Games for Russia and won gold for the country during the 2008 IIHF World Championship.

He added: “As an ice hockey player, it is truly an honour to become an ambassador of the Winter Games being held in my home country. When Sochi won its bid in Guatemala [in 2007], we were delighted that in 2014 we will be playing at home on a brand-new modern hockey arena beside the beautiful seaside.“ Ovechkin also pledged to help ensure the Games, “will be held at the highest level possible.“

The appointment of the Games’ first face is seen as another important step towards 2014 for Sochi, the most remote city ever to be awarded an Olympic Games. The venue construction in and around the city has already been described by IOC coordination commission chairman and former downhill ski racer Jean-Claude Killy as “probably the most challenging Olympics yet as far as what has to be built.“ The resort town on the Black Sea has a budget of US$9.8 billion for the Games, down from the original estimate of US$12 billion. The reduction in budget was announced earlier in the year by the Russian government, though it remains unclear whether the reduction will come from the private or public sector.

However while the IOC is still said to harbour some concerns about the scale of work required to host the Games in just over four years time, there has been recent success in SOCOG’s domestic sponsorship acquisition programme. In February local organisers announced their first Tier One sponsorship deals as long distance telephone company Rostelcom and mobile telecommunications provider MegaFon pledged US$130 million each to the Games, plus an additional US$200 million in the Sochi communications infrastructure. Rosneft and Sberbank followed them with similar amounts, while Gazprom has reportedly committed an astonishing US$2 billion towards the infrastructure of the Games.