The Swiss sports administrator, who has been critical of the Sochi
Games in the past, said such investment in the two-week event and in
related infrastructure projects would scare off traditional winter
sports nations and damage the brand.
"It is an enormous cost. It could be that Sochi is more expensive
than Beijing 2008 which was the much bigger summer Games,"
International skiing federation (FIS) president Kasper told Reuters
in a telephone interview.
Beijing cost an estimated $40 billion though the exact cost of
staging the summer Games in China is not known.
"Those costs in Sochi are enormous and a bad example for future
candidates. Most nations cannot afford it. Switzerland, France could
never afford such amounts. Particularly for winter games," the
Russian President Vladimir Putin has staked his personal political
prestige on staging a successful Olympics, which officials said
would cost $50 billion.
Kasper did praise the Russians' ability to construct an entire
industry out of the ground and surrounding mountains in less than a
"We have to see that what we did in the Alps we needed 150 years, and
they had to do it in five years. If you see that, then it shocks
you," he said.
"But the Games will be terrific and we will have the most modern
venues you can imagine. The expectations are good."
He also said that despite recent suicide bomb attacks in the
southern city of Volgograd that killed 34, Sochi will be secure for
athletes and visitors though the atmosphere may suffer.
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"The big thing with security for all events in the mountain
area is that they (organizers) cut the number of spectators by
almost 50 percent in the past two years. That of course makes it
very difficult and really does not help to create a special
atmosphere," he said.
The Games open on February 7 in the Black Sea resort on the
western edge of the Caucasus mountains where insurgents want to
carve out an Islamic state.
Russian forces have gone on combat alert this week in Sochi and
about 37,000 personnel are now in place to provide security at
"I am convinced Sochi will be the safest place in the world
during the Olympics," Kasper said.
"We know they (authorities) will be bureaucratic, not very
flexible and then there is the language barrier. But we know
that we need security. We know there is a terrorism problem not
only in Russia but all over the world."
He said the atmosphere in the venues could be affected by the
local fans' lack of deep interest for winter sports other than
"We know we might have a problem with ambiance because the Games
are in an area where there are not really winter sports."
But he was quick to shrug off the absence of American skier
Lindsey Vonn, who withdrew injured, which has deprived the Sochi
Games of arguably the most famous face in the blue riband event
of Alpine skiing.
"We have of course some top starts that are missing, but after
the Games we have new winners and no one will talk about anyone
else," said Kasper.
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; editing by Pritha Sarkar)
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