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Vancouver Olympics: Embarrassed Russia looks to 2014 Sochi Olympics

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"Sochi is the warmest place in Russia, with no infrastructure, no experience in winter sports – it doesn't even have a hockey team – and many other problems," he says. Among those he lists corruption, which he says has reached Olympean heights amid the scramble for the kind of gold that comes from construction contracts.

Mr. Putin told Russian journalists this week that everything is going according to plan in Sochi, and that by the time the Olympics open in 2014 some 207 new "objects" will have been completed, including six ice stadiums and a vast mountaintop complex that will include a ski center, a bobsled run, a snowboard park, a biathlon center, and an Olympic ski jump, along with dozens of hotels, resorts and associated services.

Though everything must be built from scratch, Putin said, "that gives us the opportunity to construct everything at the highest level."

The $130-million road

But Mr. Nemtsov claims that a road being built along the left bank of the Mzymta River, to connect the mountaintop sports venue of Krasnaya Polyana with the seaside Olympic center, will be the world's most expensive road.

"This road is costing $130 million per kilometer to build," he says. "That's about 50 times the average cost of a highway in the United States and an indication of how utterly corrupt these preparations around Sochi have become."

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