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Putin sacks official over Olympic delays

Russian President Vladimir Putin (in pic) on Thursday fired a top official for delays in the construction of infrastructure for the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games as Russia began the one-year countdown to the opening.

Putin was set to oversee lavish ceremonies in the palm tree-lined Black Sea resort city to mark one year until Russia hosts its first ever Winter Olympic Games.

The Kremlin chief has made the Games an instrumental part of a patriotic mission to promote Russia on the world stage but cost over-runs and reports of corruption have cast a shadow over the event.

In a clear bid to tackle the issue head-on in his typical tough-guy manner, Putin sacked a senior Russian Olympic Committee official over delays to the completion of the ski jumping complex.

Russian Olympics Committee deputy chief Akhmed Bilalov was fired personally by Putin who asked who was responsible for the delay in the completion of the complex from 2011 to July this year.

“The decision about the sacking has been taken,” Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak said. “People who do not carry out their obligations to such an extent cannot lead the Olympic movement of our country,” Kozak said.

In a major public humiliation, Bilalov has also lost his job as the head of the development of tourist resorts for the Northern Caucasus.

Putin had expressed his fury over the delay when he visited the Russkie Gorky ski jump complex on Wednesday. “How can it be that the vice-president of the Olympics Committee is holding back the development?” Putin fumed when told about Bilalov’s responsibility.

“Well done. You are really working well,” he added sarcastically. Putin was also unhappy that the final cost of the project had climbed to eight billion rubles (Rs 1,330 crore) instead of the initially allocated 1.2 billion (Rs 200 crore).

But despite the problems, officials voiced confidence that all the facilities and the accompanying buildings and roads would be finished on schedule.   

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