Russia scrambles to get hotels ready for Games
By Timothy Heritage and Piotr Pilat
SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Large crates of equipment stand unopened outside the entrance to the plush new Swissotel above Sochi as it scrambles to be ready for the start of the Winter Olympics.
A bricklayer in a woolen hat puts the finishing touches to a nearby wall, workers in white helmets fix cables and others clear snow with shovels. Inside the hotel, new chairs are piled on top of each other in the lobby.
Russian officials have declared Sochi ready for the Games, on which President Vladimir Putin has staked his and his country's reputation. But days before they open on Friday, the organizers acknowledge that not all the new hotels are ready, despite the Games' $50-billion price tag.
"We have our first customers coming on February 6," said Oliver Kuhn, manager of the Swissotel in the Krasnaya Polyana ski resort, which will host the Alpine skiing in the Caucasus mountains above Sochi.
"We actually planned to open last month," he said, explaining that the opening date had been put back "due to some challenges we had here."
"But our team is quite strong, quite (well) trained, so we can handle it from our side," he said.
Not everyone is so confident. Some journalists arrived in Sochi to find their hotels were not ready and have been moved temporarily to accommodation elsewhere in the Black Sea resort.
Others are staying in barely finished rooms which smell of fresh paint, have no Internet connection and televisions that do not work. When some turned on the taps, the water was brown. Others had no hot water. Continued...