It is now just one year until the opening of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. In this exclusive interview with SportsPro in December Sochi 2014 chief executive Dmitry Chernyshenko explained how his team has been working flat-out to deliver Russia's first Olympic Games.
How satisfied are you with the rate of preparations for Sochi 2014?
The preparations are going well and everybody is working incredibly hard to make sure that we reach all of our targets, and we have received brilliant feedback at every stage. Sochi is the world’s biggest construction site with nearly 60,000 people working 24/7 to ensure that we stay right on track. The sports venues are now close to completion and with test events underway, life in Sochi is very exciting at the moment.
Has the mood changed in the Sochi 2014 team since the end of London 2012 and the realisation that your Olympics are next?
From the moment Sochi was awarded the Winter Games of 2014, all of us in the Sochi 2014 team have been very excited about the Games. Now that London 2012 has concluded, all eyes are on Sochi and we are working flat-out to deliver an innovative and thrilling Games for sports fans around the world.
Infrastructural development is a core part of the work going on in Sochi at the moment – what kind of oversight does the Sochi 2014 team have in this area?
Hosting the Olympic Games has stimulated huge infrastructural development in a very short space of time. The 367km of new roads, 201km of railways and more than 650km of gas pipelines in the region are all thanks to the Games – and that is just a small portion of the transformation we have achieved. Transport in the city of Sochi has undergone decades’ worth of modernization in the space of 2-3 years. When work is completed it will have a hugely positive impact on the lives of Sochi citizens for generations to come. I believe it is already one of our most important legacy goals.
How much more work is there to do in terms of attracting commercial support?
"Sochi 2014 is helping to show the real face of modern Russia as an open and progressive member of the international community."
Our marketing programme has already raised almost US$1.3 billion in commercial revenue, making it the most successful marketing program in Winter Games history. We have signed 30 license contracts across 26 categories and our online merchandising store is up and running – so it is fair to say that we have already achieved some pretty remarkable feats in the level of commercial support we have attracted. Sochi 2014 has harnessed the huge appetite for the Games in Russia and ensured the country’s most significant and most forward-thinking brands are on board. So now we can draw on the resources, expertise and reach of companies like Rosneft, Sberbank, BOSCO and MegaFon. Just as importantly, we have connected international brands with the Russian market. Thanks to Sochi 2014, companies like Microsoft, PWC and Ottobock are now building their profiles in Russia and beyond. Forbes named Sochi the number one city in Russia to do business. That is due largely to the huge levels of international investment and attention we are attracting, but also due to the city’s continued ability to deliver on its promises.
How prepared is Russia for the influx of foreign visitors, particularly the media? Are there any specific demands you have been able to make of the Russian authorities?
Sochi 2014 is helping to show the real face of modern Russia as an open and progressive member of the international community. Russia is now a proven and trusted delivery partner across a range of spheres and that has dramatically increased the number of foreign visitors to our country. The government is taking significant steps to accommodate this influx. For example, in early December Prime Minister Putin signed a groundbreaking law that simplifies the visa system for foreign volunteers wishing to take part in Sochi 2014. The legislation should halve the visa processing time.
How important will the Paralympics be in furthering the interests of people with disability and understanding of disability in Russian society?
"The Games are well on the way to changing the lives of the 13 million people with a disability living in Russia."
The Sochi 2014 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games sits under one brand – we believe they are equal Games, and are committed to raising awareness and radically changing attitudes in Russia towards disability through our barrier-free program and the Paralympic Games. To deliver this change, the Sochi team has committed a lot of time to various initiatives leading up to the Games, including the celebration of 500 Days To Go to the Paralympic Games and the launching of our “Accessibility Map” which will provide and promote facilities to people with a disability and ensure that they are fully integrated into the Games-time experience. Everything that is being built in Sochi for the Games is being constructed with the needs of people with a disability in mind – the Games is well on the way to changing the lives of the 13 million people with a disability living in Russia and ensuring an improved model for the standard that they can expect after the Games are over.
What will we see in Sochi that we have never seen at a Winter Olympics before?
Our new slogan should give you an idea of the unique experience the world can expect at Sochi 2014: “Hot.Cool.Yours”. It sums up the national character and rich diversity of Russia, and our progressive, innovative approach to managing and staging the Games. “Hot” reflects the intensity of competition, plus Sochi’s geographical location – the “Russian Riviera”. “Cool” stands for snow and ice, and also the edgy, modern positioning of winter sport and the global perception of Russia. “Yours” emphasizes that while this is a large-scale government project, it belongs to everyone: the pride and emotion of victory and success should be shared. It also underlines the fact we want this to be the most participatory Games in history – whether you’re watching from the stands, from a live site, on television or online.
An in-depth evaluation of Sochi's preparations featured in the February 2013 edition of SportsPro. The full article can be read below.