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Olympics: Sochi struggling with 'overspending, legacy'

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

State overspending on the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics amounts to more than half a billion dollars while the government has failed to provide a lasting legacy for sporting venues, according to an official audit report.

Russia's federal audit office gave a damning verdict on preparations for the Sochi Games, as well as plans for dealing with the giant venues once the Olympics are over.

In a report presented to the Russian parliament, the Audit Chamber said cost overruns were the fault of state corporation Olympstroi, whose officials "created preconditions for unnecessary increase of construction cost for sports venues," which amounted to 15.5 billion rubles ($505 million).

The government has said that total cost of the Olympic sports venues for the Sochi games will amount to 200 billion rubles ($6.5 billion).

The audit office's examination of "Olympic construction shows that their cost continues to progressively increase," said the report, adding that many investors have approached the government in 2012 asking for more money to complete their Olympic projects.

The report, presented last week but made available on the website of Russian State Duma lower house Wednesday, said Olympstroi had taken "decisions which increased cost of objects without giving reasons for new calculations."

In some cases, Olympstroi confirmed cost estimates that exceeded maximum allowed financing, it said, and several venues were never approved by the state construction watchdog as required by law, it said.

Cost of all infrastructure built in Sochi ahead of the Olympic Games -- including massive road, rail and other projects -- was last estimated at 1.5 trillion rubles ($50 billion).

The government has claimed that most expenses were covered by private investors and that infrastructure was needed in Sochi, a city on the Black Sea and a major tourist destination.

However most private investors have seized attractive government loans for their Sochi projects and many are planning to give the finished venues to the government as a gift after the Games having deemed them a loss-making venture due to the cost of upkeep.

The Audit Chamber also noted the lack of any plan for future usage of Sochi's sports infrastructure.

"The problem of effective use of Olympic heritage objects is one of the most important and must be solved immediately," the report said, noting that no program for future venue usage had yet been agreed.

Russia is due to host a leg of the F1 series from 2014 to 2020 in Sochi Olympic park, and some World Cup matches in 2018. Other plans for the area included building an amusement park, and transporting stadiums to other cities.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130313/olympics-sochi-struggling-overspending-legacy