Ceremony Kicks off Year Countdown to Sochi Olympics

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A ceremony to mark one year to go until the start of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games was held in the Russian host city of Sochi on Thursday (February 7).

The ceremony took place at the Ice Palace in Sochi and was attended by the Russian President Vladimir Putin, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge and other IOC officials

"Once again, let me invite you all to Russia to the XXII Olympic Winter Games. Every success and all the best to you!" Putin told the guests of the ice stadium.

On Wednesday (February 6) Putin told Olympic chiefs that Russia would have its facilities ready in time and he publicly fired a national Olympic official for delay in construction of Olympic venues.

"The Olympic Winter Games are coming to Russia for the first time. The eyes of the world will soon be on Sochi, and I have no doubt that Sochi will be ready,"Jacques Rogge, IOC President, said at the official ceremony where he also officially invited world's national Olympic Committees and athletes to attend the Games.

Over the last few days Putin led an IOC delegation on a tour of venues that have been erected in the Caucasus mountains rising above the Black Sea resort city; a landscape honeycombed by construction activity. Russia has said that the cost of staging the Games will reach $50 billion - almost five times more than the original price tag, putting Sochi on track to become the most expensive Olympic Games to date.

For Putin, the Olympics is a prestige project that will put Russia at centre stage during his third presidential term, which began in May. He will want to ensure international criticism over environmental management and the rights of displaced homeowners do not tarnish the Games.

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