Olympics: On the road to Sochi - flame, blackout, harassment

MOSCOW (AFP) - An Olympic flame that keeps going out, lugers who find themselves sliding in the dark and Norwegian journalists harassed by police. Here are Agence France-Presse's (AFP) briefs of the week with three months to go to the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.


The Olympic torch has travelled thousands of miles as it progresses towards the Sochi Winter Games from Feb 7 to 28 but not without some glitches.

Since Oct 7 the flame has sputtered out "at least 44 times", said Yulia Latynina, a journalist with Moscow's Echo radio who has followed its progress on its planned 64,374km route.

In the North Pole on Monday, pulled on a sleigh by reindeer, the Olympic torch was launched into space on Thursday with a trio of Russian, Japanese and American astronauts carrying it on a spacewalk to mark the 2014 Winter Games.


International sliders preparing for the luge events had to brutally interrupt their training sessionn on Monday at the Sanki Olympic Sliding Centre in the Krasnia Poliana mountains because of power failure.

"Living by candlelight here in Russia!" tweeted Canadian slider Arianne Jones.

"No more power in the whole Rosa Khutor Resort area where we are near Sochi. Hotel manager tells me that it will last 2 days or perhaps more!" Martin Goulet, a Canadian Olympic official, wrote on his Twitter account.

The cuts came the day before the opening of a new power plant projected to supply more than 25 per cent of the energy needed during the Games.

Games organisers promised that backup generators will be installed at all Olympic venues to avoid any blackouts during the Games.

Luge training this week will be followed by training sessions for international bobsled and skeleton teams.


Two correspondents from Norway's TV2 station will remember their icy reception in the tiny autonomous Republic of Adygea which borders Sochi.

The journalists were on their way to report on preparations in Sochi when they were stopped six times and threatened with imprisonment by Russian authorities.

Human Rights Watch reported that Russian officials questioned the journalists on their motives for visiting Sochi and ordered them to submit to a drug test.


Winter sports fan Stanislav Karpovitch is ready to pay the price to attend his home Games, but the Muscovite like many in Russia believe they are too expensive. "If you plan not to eat or drink once there, and to sleep in a hostel, you can count at least 800 dollars (S$997) for two-three days," he calculated in the Novyie Izvestia newspaper. It was much cheaper for overseas Games he travelled to, he said. "At the last Winter Games in Vancouver, it was possible to buy a ticket for the ice hockey final for 300-500 dollars! And for lodging it was a lot cheaper."


Russian Olympic Committee president and vice-premier Alexandre Joukov told the Riad Novosti agency that Sochi was now ready to host the Games. "I'm sure that these Olympic Games will be the best (of all history). It seems to me that we have managed to reach all our objectives, which made the International Olympic Committee (IOC) find in our favour (for organising)." The Games are the most expensive in Olympic history with overall spending - including sporting venues - estimated at 50 billion dollars.

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