If the ski arenas currently under construction in Sochi, Russia, remain at their current size, the International Ski Federation is going to be unhappy with spectator capacity for Olympic ski competitions come 2014. International Ski Federation President and International Olympic Committee member Gian Franco Kasper criticized the venues for being unprepared for the Games based on his observations from last week’s site visit.
At a Tuesday press conference in Cavalese, Italy, for the Val di Fiemme World Championships, Kasper fielded questions about his recent inspection of the Olympic venue. “We were shocked at what happened to the audience,” Kasper said according to German ski news site xc-ski.de. He also thought transportation logistics were sub-par: “[The] road access is completely misjudged,” he said.
Organizers estimate that 7,500 spectators will be able to watch ski jumping, for example, an event that will be held directly adjacent to the cross-country arena. Seating includes specially designated sections for media and event personnel, so Kasper expects the real number of available tickets to be inadequate. FIS events constitute “50 per cent of the medal decisions” at the Winter Games and should be treated accordingly, he said.
Last week’s site visit was the eighth one of its kind since construction began in Sochi, and at its conclusion IOC Coordination Commission Chairman Jean-Claude Killy declared the venue on its way to delivering top-quality Games for all stakeholders in 2014.
“It all bodes well for a successful season of test events ahead, as well as for a great legacy left behind for the local population,” Killy said in a Sochi 2014 press release.
There are several competitions scheduled in Sochi this winter as part of a key pre-Olympics test season. According to Organizing Committee President Dmitry Chernyshenko, an unprecedented 47 total test events will take place over the coming months to “check the venues and surrounding infrastructure to ensure we’re 100 per cent prepared.”
The FIS cross-country and nordic combined World Cups both stop in Sochi in early February. Nordic combined athletes already competed at the venue for the FIS Summer Grand Prix this July.
Despite his concerns, Kasper believes there is still time for improvements to the site. “These are problems [to be] solved in the coming months,” Kasper said. Sochi organizers will be present at another press conference in Cavalese later this week, and he encouraged journalists on Tuesday to take the opportunity to ask them critical questions.
Audrey Mangan (@audreymangan) is an Associate Editor at FasterSkier and lives in Colorado. She learned to love skiing at home in Western New York.