IOC Official Says It Took 'Red Alert' to Get Sochi Ready

A volunteer wears badges indicating the languages she speaks at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. The volunteer corps at the Olympics and staff at hotels have proved to be not just competent but friendly. Andy Wong / AP

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The International Olympic Committee’s point man for the Sochi Games says the IOC realized too late that hotel construction was behind schedule and that it took a “red alert” from organizers to get the city ready.

Jean-Claude Killy, the IOC’s chief supervisor for Sochi and a three-time gold-medal skier himself, told The Wall Street Journal in an interview published Tuesday that the IOC only realized the depth of the problem last September.

“All the alarms went up,” Killy told the newspaper. “I made a special trip. I said, ‘What do we need to do?’ There is no way to organize a games if you cannot accommodate people.”

The “red alert” triggered an expansion of the crews preparing Sochi for the Olympics, he said — ultimately 100,000 people working around the clock seven days a week.

Killy also told the Journal that unprecedented access to Russian President Vladimir Putin was critical to addressing problems.

“We always had the capacity to go to the top man,” Killy said. “When you become friends with this guy and ask for something and you see it within two hours, that’s very impressive.”

Russia is believed to have spent more than $50 billion on the games, including building 22,000 hotel rooms.