Thursday, July 5, 2007

Salzburg out of 2014 Olympic race


Russian president Vladimir Putin


The race to host the 2014 Winter Olympics is down to two cities after Salzburg was eliminated from voting by the International Olympic Committe.

Either the Russian resort of Sochi, or Pyeongchang in South Korea, will be named as the winner later on Wednesday.

After Salzburg's elimination was made public at the IOC meeting in Guatemala, delegates entered final discussions.

The presidents of all three hopeful countries had been at the meeting to plead their cities' cause.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin, a keen skier, said if the Games came to Sochi, 70% of athletes would live within five minutes' walk of the venues, so there would be no traffic problems.

The Black Sea resort has a unique combination of springlike weather and cold temperatures in the nearby Krasnaya Polyana mountains, with Putin said would guarantee snow.

"Winter sports are popular in Russia and our sportsmen have won many competitions and have made a big contribution to the Olympic movement," he said.

"But we have never won the honour to celebrate the Winter Olympic Games.

"You know we can turn sports competitions into a really spectacular show and we are good at it."

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun also made a speech on behalf of Pyeongchang, emphasising the public's enthusiasm for the Games and the government's commitment to staging them.

The tiny resort 180km east of Seoul, with a population of 46,000, came within three votes of winning the 2010 Games, losing out to Vancouver.

It is thought that if their bid succeeds, the Koreans may try to send one united North and South Korean team.

Salzburg's bid was fronted by skiing legend Franz Klammer and also had Mike Lee, who orchestrated London 2012's communications strategy, on board.

It also had the advantage of having 11 of the venues already built, but changes of chief executive and a doping scandal involving Austrian skiers at the last games may have damaged their chances.

It was a second consecutive disappointment for Salzburg, who also made an unsuccessful bid to host the 2010 Games.

Austria has hosted the event twice before, at Innsbruck in 1964 and 1976, but neither Korea nor Russia, nor the former Soviet Union, has had the honour.

The 20th Winter Games took place in Turin in Italy in 2006 while Vancouver will stage the 2010 Games.

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