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Russia's Putin sacks Olympic official over delays

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Thu, 7 Feb 2013 12:22 GMT
Author: Reuters
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(Changes dateline, adds details)

SOCHI, Russia, Feb 7 (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin dismissed a senior Russian Olympic Committee official on Thursday over rising costs and delays in construction work for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Putin had criticised Akhmed Bilalov, the vice president of Russia's Olympic Committee, during a tour of the venues in front of television cameras on Wednesday when he was told of the delays at the ski jumping venue and that costs had soared.

"People who do not fulfil their obligations on such a scale cannot lead the Olympic movement in our country," Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak told reporters in Sochi.

By dismissing Bilalov, Putin appeared to sending a warning to others involved in the Games preparations that he will not put up with any further delays and higher costs.

Putin has also warned against corruption pushing up the costs, already expected to reach ${esc.dollar}50 billion.

The Games are a priority for Putin in his third term as president. He sees them as an opportunity to show Russia is a modern democracy capable of organising global events, two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Kozak said Bilalov, 42, was also likely to be sacked from his post on the board of the Resorts of the North Caucasus, a state firm create to develop a chain of luxury resorts.

Moscow hopes the resorts will help end a cycle of joblessness that has helped fuel militant violence in the mainly Muslim provinces of the North Caucasus that lie southwest of Sochi.

Security risks in the nearby regions are of paramount importance to the Kremlin ahead of the Games.

(Reporting by Alexei Anishchuk, Writing by Alissa de Carbonnel, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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