Fri, Jul 06, 2007 - Page 24 News List

Russians celebrate winning battle to host 2014 Olympics

AP , SOCHI, RUSSIA

Fireworks boomed in the sky to celebrate Sochi's selection as the site of the 2014 Olympics, and Russians' hearts filled with pride, confident their long-beleaguered land has finally overcome its troubles.

"It means that Russia has reached the level of Europe, and we can be proud of our country," said Marina Matveyeva, a 23-year-old bank employee who was one of more than an estimated 15,000 people who jammed a central square yesterday for the pre-dawn announcement.

Officials praised Sochi's victory as a boost to Russia's prestige on the international arena -- a much needed push for a country that has faced increased criticism of its democracy and human-rights record.

"Sochi's election as the capital of the 2014 Olympic Games is another proof of our country's authority in the world, of a country which is stable, predictable and in this context sportive," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin told the ITAR-Tass news agency.

Russia, which hosted the 1980 Moscow Games, has never held a Winter Olympics.

Two previous tries by Sochi failed. A bid for the 1998 games was withdrawn early in the decade amid the economic deterioration during the last months of the Soviet Union's existence. Its try for the 2002 games didn't make the final round, due to concerns about the almost-total absence of facilities.

Sochi still must build nearly every venue new. But this time, bid promoters pushed that as an asset, saying the construction would mean the Olympic movement would get its most modern games ever.

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