MOSCOW – A year before Russia hosts the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, new problems have emerged, which could jeopardize the event. This time it’s not lack of money, which has plagued construction from the beginning, but a surprising lack of manpower.
At a recent International Olympic Committee (IOC) meeting, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dimitry Kozak said that with 12 months until the Games, the construction and organizational aspects could not afford to run into major new roadblocks. He underlined that outstanding questions linked to visitors’ visas and accommodation, transportation and communications need to be solved quickly.
However, based on the IOC's meeting, they seem to be dealing above all with the same construction problems that they were already talking about in 2007, when Russia was awarded the Winter Olympics.
Olympic Committee documents warn that it might be impossible to complete construction on all Olympic infrastructures in time. The main problem is that an additional 22,600 workers are needed in Sochi. The original plan had called for 94,500 workers, but only 71,900 are actually working on site.
In preparation for the Sochi Games, there are 378 construction projects being undertaken by the federal government and 46 by the regional government – as well as many private projects. Only 13 of those projects are directly related to sports – the rest have to do with infrastructure and the hospitality industry. Of the 13 projects directly related to sports, only six have been finished and are usable, while work continues on the rest – and there are concerns about having enough manpower to do so. While both public and private projects are experiencing a worker shortage, the problem is much more acute for private developers. Many of those developers are building hotels.
More than 24,000 new hotel rooms
In addition to the actual sports venues, hotels are an important part of the Olympics. The minimum number of hotel rooms needed for the event is 41,500. As part of the preparation for the Games, 43 hotels with a combined 24,000 rooms were supposed to be built. Of those, six have already been cancelled due to “systematic problems with investors.”
According to Olympic Committee documents, an additional 24 hotel projects have “fallen through or are at risk of falling through.” The reason is listed as the same for all 24 projects in question – lack of manpower.
The Ministry of Regional Development says that this lack of workers and vehicles is intentional. “The planned 94,500 workers was meant as the peak number, so of course there will be reallocation of the workers and technology,” a Ministry spokesman said.
But in the Construction and Development department, officials say that a proposed fine on private developers who fail to get their projects done in time could help minimize the risk of more projects falling apart. At the moment, the hotel room deficit is only 2,400, and there even appears to be an excess of 3-star hotels.
As of Jan. 1, 74.5% of the total budget for the Sochi Olympic Games had already been spent. The money problems that plagued many of the construction projects were resolved a year ago, when the government helped private investors secure credit for their projects. In order to prevent this quasi-public funding from being wasted, those who received government-backed credit had to agree to stiff fines for missing construction targets. As of Jan. 10, 2013, 68 developers had signed these agreements.