Power fully restored after outages hit Russian resort bidding to host 2014 Olympics

Friday, February 2nd 2007, 8:09 am
By: News On 6

ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia (AP) _ Officials said Friday that electricity had been fully restored to hundreds of thousands of homes after winter weather led to power outages in the Russian Black Sea resort that is bidding to host the 2014 Winter Olympics.

High winds and heavy snowfalls pulled down power lines across Sochi, located at the foot of the Caucasus Mountains in a nearly 150-kilometer (80-mile) stretch of coastline, cutting electricity supplies to the city's 400,000 residents.

Officials earlier in the week said electricity had been restored in full, but the lights went out a second time, snarling traffic, bringing business to a halt and fraying nerves in the seaside region.

Regional emergency officials said Friday that workers had fully restored power supplies to the area, but warned heavy snowfalls would continue.

Sochi is competing against Salzburg, Austria, and Pyeongchang, South Korea, for the right to hold the 2014 games and the outage came ahead of a visit by the International Olympic Committee evaluation commission later this month.

President Vladimir Putin voiced hope that the outage would not affect Sochi's bid.

``That must have no impact on our plans for hosting the Olympics,'' Putin told at a news conference Thursday. ``I don't have any doubt that if the International Olympic Committee favors Sochi, we will build all necessary facilities on schedule.''

Economics minister German Gref said that a federal development program for Sochi includes funds to ensure stable energy supplies regardless of the weather.

``No matter what decision is made concerning the Olympics bid, the problem of ensuring stable energy supplies for the region will be solved ... within the next few years,'' Gref said in televised remarks.

Russia, long a winter sports power, has never held the Winter Games and Putin's government is putting its full support behind Sochi. He said the government plans to pour at least 314 billion rubles (US$11.8 billion (euro9.06 billion) to build new sports facilities and infrastructure.

``We are capable of conducting a large-scale regional investment project we couldn't even dream of in the past,'' he said.

``If we host the Olympics, that would be a bit bigger. If we don't it would be a bit smaller,'' Putin added.

Russian officials have sought to address concerns that recent Olympics placed huge drains on host countries, resulting in expensive, underused facilities and little long-term economic benefit.

Putin said his government would develop Sochi irrespective of the bid's outcome.

``In any case, we will carry out this investment project for ourselves, for Russian citizens, so that people have an opportunity to take vacation in their own land,'' he said Thursday.