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Athletes arrive at Olympics venue

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

SOCHI, Russia - Russia has welcomed the first teams to its Southern resort of Sochi less than a week ahead of the start to the Olympic Games, as organisers worked all out to finish accommodation on time.

The Games, the biggest event Russia has hosted since the fall of the Soviet Union, are to get underway on February 7 at a ceremony starting on Saturday that is expected to project Russia's status as a world and sporting power.

Athletes from five teams, including New Zealand and Japan, were given official welcoming ceremonies as they arrived at the Olympic Village ahead of the main influx of athletes this week.

Media arriving early for the Games have found organisers racing against the clock to finish accommodation on time, with rooms still being furnished even after journalists had checked in.

"There are still some issues to be solved as it is always just before the games," International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach acknowledged as he attended a session of the IOC executive board in Sochi.

"But always in this respect we are in contact with the organising committee and we hope that the situation will be solved in the next couple of days," he added.

After winning the right to host the Games in a bid spearheaded by President Vladimir Putin, Russia had to build almost all its infrastructure from scratch in an almost virgin area, a drive that has caused huge concern among environmental activists.

"The first time I visited the Olympic Park was in August 2009 and it was an empty site. I'm not afraid that things are not yet completed â€" they are tiny details and will be finished soon," said Oleg Kharchenko, the chief architect from state contractor Olympstroi.

Teams from New Zealand, Mongolia, Japan, Belgium and the Philippines are the first being ceremonially welcomed on Sunday in the two Olympic villages by the sea and by the mountains. The world will be scrutinising Russia to see whether it is capable of hosting a world class Games.

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