ROSA KHUTOR, Russia (Reuters) - Irked by stories of unfinished hotels just days before the Sochi Olympics are due to start, the owners of one major complex took reporters on a three-hour tour on Wednesday to prove they were ready for visitors.
Even as the tour wound its way around the brand new paved streets and buildings of the Gorky Gorod complex in the mountains, workers were busily hammering, sanding, soldering wires in lamp posts and installing garbage bins.
“In principle all the work is done ... the hotels are now preparing for the arrival of guests and that’s why you see people doing small jobs and cleaning up,” Stanislav Kuznetsov, deputy chairman of the board at Russian state lender Sberbank, told reporters.
“We want to show our guests what things are really like. We think it’s good, we are proud of what has been done.”
The giant bank took over the complex 18 months ago after the original managers ran badly behind schedule. Gorky Gorod, which consists of nine hotels and a series of apartment hotels, has provided 3,036 rooms to the Olympic organizers.
“I have been to all the recent Olympic Games and to be honest with you, in every Olympic town we came across the same thing - in the last few days people were trying to wrap up the final preparatory work ... I don’t see anything bad in that,” said Kuznetsov.
“Given the huge amount of guests who’ll be coming here, there will obviously be some requests, complaints and comments. What matters is how prepared our team is to deal with them and how we can clear up mistakes.”
The issue was clearly a sensitive one for Kuznetsov, who initially said he could talk to reporters for just 20 minutes but eventually stayed for almost two hours.
He brushed off questions about media reports saying some accommodation for the Games would not been ready in time and complained that a few journalists were determine to find fault.
“There are objective reports of what’s going on and there are some elements working from a sub text that something is wrong, something is bad, there’s a reason for this, there’s a cunning plan,” he said.
One television crew filmed Kuznetsov against the backdrop of a hotel that was clearly not ready. He said later the hotel had never been planned to be open for the Games.
Part of the Gorky Gorod complex lies in the valley in Krasnaya Polyana - the main town in the outdoor winter sports region - while the rest lies a cable car ride up towards the snow-capped mountains.
The International Olympic Committee said all 24,000 rooms for the Games had now been delivered with organizing committee putting the finishing touches.
“It is a little premature to say it is a failure,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams told reporters. “Clearly there are some issues but barely a minute goes by without us pushing it. We want it to be solved and we are really doing our best.”
“Will they be ready in time? We are assured they will be.”
The largest hotel in the lower section is the Marriott, which a spokeswoman for operator Interstate Europe insisted was “100 percent finished”. Not far away lies a brand new shopping mall, the top floor of which is dominated by an artificial lake with a sandy beach.
Officials in the upper part of Gorky Gorod showed reporters a number of brand new rooms in three different hotels. Many had polished marble floors.
One giant suite in the five-star 114-room Rixos hotel has been reserved for a top official in the U.S. Olympic Association, a member of the hotel administration said.
The Rixos also features a spa, a 25-metre swimming pool, fitness centers and Turkish-style steam baths. The menu in one of its restaurant offers a bottle of Dom Perignon champagne priced at 166,000 roubles ($5,000).
Additional reporting by Karolos Grohmann, Editing by Ed Osmond