The countdown is officially on, and the world is acutely focused on readiness watch. In less than 100 days the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games and Paralympic Games will light the opening ceremony flame, the athletes will proudly parade behind their raised flags, and the games will begin.
With media attention and worldwide interest intensifying, the stats are becoming frequent soundbytes:
- Location: Russia’s mountain and sea resort town of Sochi with its 145km of coastline
- Stadium, Village and all other site design starting with a blank sheet of paper as no pre-existing facilities
- A unique, future ‘model’ Olympic site creation offering:
- 2 distinct clusters, 1 coastal for ceremonies, skating, hockey and other ice sports, 1 mountain cluster for skiing, sledding and other snow and hill based sports
- 1 close and cleanly connected transport system connecting the clusters
- Total bill to be paid for site development: US$ 51 billion
and of course,
- special mention of the special attention being paid to open up air access, visa regulations, and other usual travel technicalities that can slow down the speed of athletes and supporters getting into and around the Games.
As the world comes together in Sochi, the Olympic family and global sporting community going on show, a second stage is set and in full performance mode. And the price far exceeds that of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
An Olympic size investment has been made by the nation of Russia in its global repositioning through being home to the host city of the 2014 Games. With each day of countdown until official opening of the world’s largest sporting event and one of the world’s trophy mega-events, Russia is under the spotlight, the heat only getting more and more uncomfortable. Human nature and interest is engaged in a hectic game of questioning Russia’s ability to deliver:
Will the stadiums be ready?
Will the transport systems work?
Will the media centre be able to manage the massive flows of journalists, networks, reporting, and networking?
Will the Olympic Village meet the needs of the athletes?
Will visitors feel welcome? Will they be safe?
Will the Games take home gold?
And what will happen to all of this after?
And these are just the points that Russia hopes to score from the international community. At home, the competition for credibility and support is as strong, if not stronger:
Why here, why now?
Why not invest in schools, hospitals, essentials?
Why make us work so hard so others can play?
For any nation that has hosted, or is in the process of readying for hosting, these questions are familiar echoes and aches. It happens everywhere – no mega-event has escaped, or will escape, the challenges. Even now the lingering voices of challenge hang over mega-events of recent past and imminent future be it the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games, or the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brasil.
And yet event after event, year after year, nations put their hand up and wave them wildly with excitement, in hopes of playing host.
Because for so many nations, mega-events are the fuel for future nation building, internally and on the international stage. They being pain, no question, as questions put pressure on lead-up periods, and do not banish the pessimists even after successful execution. But without these events, the cost to a country could be so much higher.
Overtly, investment made by a city/country in a mega-event is about, at first priority level, the event infrastructure – stadium, media centre, accommodation, IT, airlines, airports, public transport, safety & security, etc.
Second layer: supporting though non-essential aspects – public space upgrades, secondary transport systems, the cosmetics
A mega-event forces adherence to delivery dates, especially where first priority aspects are concerned. The games will go on, as scheduled, second layer ready or not. The IOC, FIFA, BIE, heads of F1, etc have too much riding on on-schedule delivery to take a risk with their brand and business. This means that critical aspects of city and national infrastructure will be brought to life in time for the event, and kept alive long after. As are employable skills developed in the building process, even if the short-term employment in event creation come to an end.
In addition, these events allow for a mega-valet service of a host city / country space, making environmental improvements that have a lasting glow on host locations.
Finally, and critically, hosting allows hosts to cone together to heighten pride, productivity, profile and possibility. The threads of the national flag become stronger, more tightly woven together, more unified, for all at home and across the world to see. Identity is raised high.
Mega-events are never about “should we?” They are about “What if we didn’t?”
So, will Sochi be ready?
Yes. Because the 2014 Winter Games must go on. And national competition is fierce – far beyond sport – to allow for anything but aggressive efforts to come out on top.
As for the athletes, the Olympic dream for Sochi and Russia can and will become a reality with hope, a prayer, and a huge amount of hard work. There is simply too much invested in this moment, at all levels.
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2013