There has been no shortage of skepticism about whether Sochi can pull things together for the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics, but at least one group of athletes has given the Russian city a thumbs up.
This week, the International Bobsleigh & Skeleton Federation began a training session for athletes who want to test the Sanki Sliding Center in the mountain cluster. Sliders have arrived from around the world.
“We are here for the second time and the ice quality is much better," Latvian skeleton racer Martins Dukurs said. "The track is faster with less shakes and it is easier for the athletes to travel down."
Amid construction delays and reports of corruption, the cost of these Games has ballooned upwards of $50 billion, an Olympic record. Sliders who were not impressed with Sochi during a World Cup event last February now report positive developments.
“I was really surprised, because quite a lot of structures have gone up, buildings, and everything is looking really nice now and nearly complete," Shelley Rudman of Great Britain said. "It’s really good to see as you enter.”
The training session represents the last test event for Sochi before the Olympics begin in early February. More than 170 athletes from 18 countries are taking part.
"I definitely feel some kind of Olympic spirit here," American bobsledder Steven Holcomb said. "It’s a nice hotel, and volunteers are great and helpful.”