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REFILE Sochi 2014 pledges superlative Winter Olympics By Ulf Mauder and Sven Busch, dpa Eds: Refiling to fix typo in headline

Europe
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Krasnaya Polyana, Russia (dpa) - Dmitry Chernyshenko pledged great Games in packed venues as the organizing committee chief of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics smiled away or doubts and criticism on Thursday.

Free internet access for the world media is another goodie promised by the Russian organizers as they show off the venues and infrastructure to some 300 journalists from 30 countries for the first time.

Not even a possible lack of snow at the ski venues is of concern in the current spring-like temperatures.

Chernyshenko promises "the great and most compact Games" which are scheduled to take from February 7, 2014, onwards in two clusters: the ice events in the host City on the Black Sea and the snow events in the mountains of Krasnaya Polyana some 50 kilometres away.

The chief organizer names Sochi a model for modern Russia, saying that the apartments of the athletes village will be sold to the public after the big event and that venues such as the Olympic stadium will be used in the future for congresses and fairs.

For Sochi mayor Anatoli Pakhomov, the Olympics will make the city even more attractive as an all-year resort, with one visible sign the large amount of luxury hotels being built in Krasnaya Polyana.

While the first ski races have already taken place and the sliding centre now sees a first training week for the luge elite, the whole region is still a gigantic construction site.

Chernyshenko said that this is no reason for concern because all sites are completed to around 70 per cent and that everything is going according to schedule less than 15 months before the opening ceremony.

Russia is reportedly splashing out an overall figure of 30 billion dollars into the Games and their infrastructure - making them the most expensive Winter Olympics.

But they are unlikely to be the best-attended as well as especially the Krasnaya Polyana events will see small crowds of less than 10,000 for instance for a ski race.

This has raised criticism from the International Ski Federation (FIS), but Chernyshenko insisted that there are 12 more events than at Vancouver 2010, and that the location in the mountains and the weather issue have also led organizers to cut the number of spectators for the mountain events.

Chernyshenko pledges "sold out Games" and is also not concerned that the first Winter Games in a subtropical region will suffer from the weather.

"We have enough devices to produce snow, even in plus 15 degrees Celsius," he said.

Organizers say they have 430 snow-making devices to prepare pistes and slopes if necessary, and that the Sochi team learnt a lot in this area from the Vancouver 2010 edition which also saw warm temperatures.

So far winter is only slowly approaching in the Caucasian mountains, with the summits covered by the first snow of the season.

The stunning panorama makes many forget the the problems of the past years and months. At the presentation, the alleged corruption, the forced relocation of some 2,000 residents and environmental issues are no longer an issue. dpa svb/mau bag

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