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Vladimir Putin has arrived in Sochi to welcome heads of state and top Olympic officials to the Winter Games, which open on Friday.
Mr Putin will meet with Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee, on Tuesday afternoon, and will hold a series of meetings with visiting world leaders in the next few days.
The Kremlin says it expects more than 40 heads of state to attend Friday’s opening ceremony, including the leader of the breakaway Georgian republic of South Ossetia, over which Russia fought a war with Georgia in 2008.
South Ossetia is not recognised by the IOC and will not be competing in the games. No Georgian government delegation will attend, though the country will compete.
But there will be conspicuous absences. David Cameron and Barack Obama are among several Western leaders to have declined invitations, in a snub that has been widely interpreted as linked to Russia’s human rights record, and controversial laws banning “propaganda of homosexuality” in particular.
In Sochi itself, builders are still scrambling to complete accommodation for guests, journalists and Olympic staff before the games open at the end of the week.
On Tuesday it emerged that the government would force state-owned companies to pay for delays – forcing national rail monopoly Russian Railways to buy back unfinished accommodation units.
Russian Railways, Russia’s second largest company, will have to pay 10.4 billion roubles (£180 million) for 2,200 apartments for Olympic volunteers that it failed to complete, Russian business daily Vedomosti reported.
Russian Railways is headed by Vladimir Yakunin, a close ally of Mr Putin, and it’s building subsidiary, RZhD Stroi, has played a major role in the Olympic construction projects.
Other Olympic real estate is being redistributed various state-owned companies free of charge, but Dmitry Kozak, the deputy prime minister in charge of the games, apparently decided to “punish” Mr Yakunin’s empire for the delays.
Up to 5,000 of the 25,000 Olympic volunteers are believed to have been rehoused in hotels because of incomplete accommodation, with knock-on effects for journalists and other visitors to the games.
Only six of nine hotels intended for world media were fully operating as of Sunday, according to the organising committee.
Organisers insisted that “97 per cent” of the 24,000 rooms required to house the Olympic family – including media and volunteers – were already operational, with the remainder “undergoing final testing.”
“This include 500 rooms in the Gornaya Karousel resort which are currently undergoing final testing to ensure they are ready to accommodate visitors.
“A wide range of contractors and partners are working round the clock to make sure that all of the rooms are ready in time for the arrival of guests,” organisers said in emailed comments.