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Russia wins 2014 Winter Games

July 05, 2007 11:39 IST

The Black Sea resort of Sochi, boosted by the personal intervention of Russian president Vladimir Putin, won the right to stage the 2014 Winter Olympic Games on Wednesday.

Putin came to Guatemala to address the International Olympic Committee session and his polished performance, in English, French and Spanish, wooed members who responded by awarding the Games to Sochi by just four votes.

Sochi gained 51 votes to upset favourites Pyeongchang of South Korea who took 47 votes in the second round of the ballot.

The third candidate, Salzburg of Austria had been eliminated in the first round with 25 votes behind Pyeongchang on 36 and Sochi on 34.

The Russian delegation erupted in elation after IOC president Jacques Rogge opened the envelope to announce the winning bid.

Putin, who had left the session before the vote to return to Moscow, called from his plane. "He was excited and he congratulated each and every one of us," said Russian deputy prime minister Alexander Zhuchov.

Sochi had started the bid as outsiders as none of their venues have yet been built. But they made up ground with a slick campaign and Putin's support may ultimately have been the final ingredient for success.

Rogge said Putin's presence in Guatemala had been important. "This is very reassuring for the IOC," he said. "It shows the support of the government authorities which is very, very important."

Rogge had not been surprised by Sochi's victory. "I had predicted a close call and it was a close call but Sochi won deservedly," he added.

POWER POLITICS

Pyeongchang, who lost out to Vancouver four years ago for the right to stage the 2010 Games by just three votes, were devastated to lose again.

"It's almost like being stabbed in the back," said a dejected bid development director Jeon Yong-kwan. "I don't get it. We did everything the IOC asked of us."

Jeon suggested Sochi would find it difficult to build all the venues in the allotted time.

Salzburg, who finished third four years ago too, were equally depressed.

Prime minister Alfred Gusenbauer said bitterly: "If it's about power politics and finances, then Salzburg does not have a chance.

"I am convinced that the concept we presented was the absolute best."

Russian Olympic figure skating champion Yevgeny Plushenko said Putin's presence had been decisive.

He spoke in three languages and he really gave us big energy," he said. "He did a very good job".

Sochi offered the IOC a combination of indoor venues on the Black Sea where the climate is springlike in winter along with guaranteed snow and cold weather in the nearby Krasnaya Polyana mountains.

Putin has a holiday home in the region and frequently skis there.

It will be the first time Russia has staged a Winter Olympics though Moscow was host to the Summer Games in 1980.

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