February 06, 2013

SOCHI, Russia (AP) -- With the Winter Olympics a year away, IOC President Jacques Rogge praised Sochi organizers on Wednesday and defended the $51 billion price tag.

Speaking in an interview with The Associated Press in the Black Sea resort, Rogge said he was impressed by the preparations for Russia's first Winter Olympics.

"The site is very compact, it's high quality and is situated in beautiful surroundings," Rogge said.

Rogge is touring the Olympic venues ahead of the one-year countdown, which will be marked with a dazzling ice show on Thursday. Most of the venues have already been completed, while thousands of workers are still finishing up some Olympic facilities.

Russian authorities last week announced the latest costs related to the games, saying total spending would come to about $51 billion, which would make Sochi the most expensive Olympics in history.

Rogge said a great deal of the money is going to infrastructure projects, including new roads and railways, which will serve the development of the entire region for decades to come.

"You have to put it into proportion," Rogge said. "The organization of the games is not going to cost a lot of money. But the government ... wished to develop the whole area. You cannot just take the cost of the train and the tunnels and the road into the cost of the games because this tunnel and the train and the road are not meant for two weeks of competition, they are meant for generations to last."

Rogge also dismissed any concerns about the weather, saying organizers had contingency plans in place in case of adverse conditions. Warm temperatures and rain disrupted some of the snowboarding and freestyle skiing events at the 2010 Vancouver Games.

"I think that the organizers have taken all the precautions to cope with the weather," Rogge said. "The weather in the mountains is always unpredictable. There can be too much snow or too little snow, we have seen it in the previous games. But, you know, if there is such a circumstance then the organizers will react with the plan B."

Rogge won't be the IOC president at the time of the Sochi Games. He steps down in September at the end of his 12-year term.

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