SOCHI, Russia – The official mascots for the Winter Olympics are a polar bear, a hare and a leopard. But walk around the complexes for the Games here, with the opening ceremony set for Friday, and what seems more apt is a hand drill, a backhoe and a shovel.
Much of Sochi is a work in progress, and parts of it look at least a dozen all-nighters away from completion. There are unfinished hotels, half-finished stores and a mall where the only shop that is open and thriving is a Cinnabon.
The venues at the Olympic Park are arguably the most impressive part of the Games, and surely the most important.
Unlike some of the housing, which seems to be a play that opened before it had enough time to rehearse, the Ice Cube Curling Center, the Shayba hockey arena and the Adler Arena, where the speedskating will take place, seemingly are prepared.
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Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, had seven years to build these Olympics, and he staked a record $51 billion and his own reputation to realize his vision.
Stories suggesting the Games are not ready are a familiar theme of pre-opening ceremony news coverage — but typically those stories cease in the weeks and days before the torch arrives.
Sochi is cutting it close.
As with every Olympics, the world’s attention will be trained here for only a matter of weeks. With such a tiny window of life on the international stage, one would expect deadlines would have been met months ago.
Stray dogs in Sochi to be killed
Thousands of stray dogs have been living amid the mud and rubble of Olympic construction sites, roaming the streets and snowy mountainsides and begging for scraps of food.
As the Games approach, authorities have turned to a company to catch and kill the animals so they don’t bother Sochi’s new visitors or wander into an Olympic event.
Alexei Sorokin, director general of the pest-control firm Basya Services, told The Associated Press his company had a contract to exterminate the animals throughout the Olympics.
Sorokin described his company as being involved in the “catching and disposing” of dogs, although he declined to specify how the dogs would be killed or say where employees would take the carcasses.
The dogs have been causing numerous problems, Sorokin said, including “biting children.”
Sorokin said he was stunned last week when he attended a rehearsal for the opening ceremony and saw a stray dog walking in on the performers.
“A dog ran into the Fisht Stadium; we took it away,” he said. “God forbid something like this happens at the actual opening ceremony. This will be a disgrace for the whole country.”
Animal activist Dina Filippova is among the opponents of the latest dog-culling plan, saying city authorities are using the Olympics as an excuse to cover an ongoing practice.
“We should understand that it is done not only before the Olympics but constantly,” she said. “Two killers from that company work for the city to kill 300 dogs a month.”