Selection of the 2014 Winter Olympics takes place later today in Guatemala City, Guatemala. Prior to his recent pit-stop in nearby Kennebunkport, Putin visited Guatemala to press the flesh and trumpet Sochi's bid to host the Winter Olympic games. With the Russian government spending billions on top of oligarch's investments in Sochi and Krasnaya Polyana, Russia has been pressing hard to host it's first Winter Olympics and first Olympic games since 1980.
The remaining three candidate cities are Salzburg, Austria; Pyeongchang, South Korea; and Sochi, Russia. The vote takes place among the 110-member International Olympic Committee (IOC). The IOC is comprised of many former athletes from multiple nations, with some emphasis placed on smaller member nations.
Voting takes place in two potential rounds. Ninety-seven can vote in the first round, as president Jacques Rogge and members whose countries are finalists prohibited from first round votes (this incluses three Russians, two Koreans, an Austrian and two Germans (one Salzburg event would be held in Germany). Five members are absent from the vote.
Each finalist city will make a 45-minute presentation to the IOC, with 15 minutes more for questions and answers. Sochi goes first, followed by Salzburg and Pyeongchang. Starting at 3:30 p.m. EDT (21:30 GMT), IOC members cast secret ballots until one city receives a majority. The city with the fewest votes is eliminated after the first round, and its country's members can vote if there is a second round. In the event of a first round tie, the two finalist cities would have a runoff. In the event of a second round tie, IOC President Rogge would ask for a vote of the 15-member executive board to break a tie.
The announcement ceremony starts at 5 p.m. EDT (23:00 GMT), where Rogge will open a sealed envelope and announce the winner.
Hosting Olympic games have always been more about hype and prestige, than any great financial windfall to the host country. Recent games have actually been big financial losers; however, potential host countries still are spending ridiculous sums of money in hopes of hosting the games. Current spending is already at unprecedented levels, both in terms of proposed infrastructure and development, and "marketing". Announced bid campaigns for the 2014 Olympics have been $13 million by Salzburg, $30 million by Sochi, and $32.5 million by Pyeongchang. Informed estimates suggest the Koreans and Russians have spent more than $40 million on the bid alone.
Gazprom, Interros and other companies are already spending hundreds of millions of dollars on the 62,000-hectare Krasnaya Polyana area. Gazprom is opening a resort with six ski lifts, more than a dozen slopes and several dozen cabins. Vladimir Potanin’s Interros holding is building a $140 million Roza Hutor ski center. The $425 million Karusel resort, owned by Nortgaz co-owner and Krasnodar Senator Farkhat Akhmedov, opened in 2006.
The Russian government has earmarked a 327 billion ruble ($11.7 billion) plan to turn Sochi into a year-round mountain and Black Sea resort. 60% of the money will come from federal and regional coffers and go toward infrastructure such as electricity, communication and transportation.
Among the proposed projects are a 50-kilometer mini-metro system, a bobsled track and 14 other sports facilities, new hotels, and a reconstruction of the Alder airport. If Russia wins the Olympics bid, it could collect an additional $1 billion to improve infrastructure from the International Olympic Committee and corporate sponsors of the Games.
If the bid fails, the program’s $12 billion price tag would be halved.
At this point, Salzburg is considered the underdog in what is widely regarded as a two city competition. This has led Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbaurer to increase some verbal jabs at Sochi's bid:
The sarcasm fairly dripped from Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer's voice as he pointed to the ice rink Russia has assembled to promote Sochi's bid for the 2014 Winter Olympics.
"This is a good symbol of how our friends in Russia understand environment—putting a skating facility in a country with a temperature of almost 30 degrees (86 Fahrenheit)," Gusenbauer told the Tribune as he walked through Guatemala City Tuesday afternoon. "This already indicates how they will handle the environment in Sochi."
Gusenbauer apparently has decided his country's underdog bidder, Salzburg, no longer has anything to gain by being politic in a competition he believes is far too political. He portrays Wednesday's vote for the 2014 host in almost apocalyptic terms.
"It's a fight for the future of the Olympic movement," he said.
That idea could resonate with those International Olympic Committee members who find the campaign styles of the other two finalists, Sochi, Russia, and Pyeongchang, South Korea, to be over the top.
The IOC calls environmental sensitivity one of the "guiding principles" of the Olympic movement. Gusenbauer thinks other Olympic principles also have been violated in the 2014 contest.
"Many IOC members are very much concerned about how this campaign is going on," said Gusenbauer, who has spoken with four dozen of the 111 members since arriving Saturday. "Some have the impression this is an auction.
"Many dislike this economic and political power play. This could be in favor of a Salzburg that simply does not participate in this type of auction."
UPDATE: As expected, Salzburg received the fewest votes. Round 2 is now ongoing, between Sochi and Pyeongchang.
Can view this live here:
The final vote has been announced, and Sochi has won the 2014 Olympics.