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Russian GP on track despite IOC threat

7 April 2011

The first-ever competitive F1 event in Russia should go ahead as planned in 2014 despite suggested threats to its place on the calendar from the International Olympic Committee.

With Russia aiming to attract a glut of major sporting events to its shores over the next few years, including F1 and soccer's World Cup, the IOC has expressed concern that the programme of development for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi will be hampered by plans to stage the inaugural Russian GP there the same year. Such is its concern, the IOC has said that it would consider using legal powers to order a postponement of the F1 event for a year should it perceive that the project will hinder construction or preparation for the Games.

However, Dmitry Chernyshenko, president of the Sochi games organising committee, insisted that plans are well in hand on both projects and said that he expected the grand prix, which will share some of the Olympic facilities, to go ahead as scheduled. Initial plans show the proposed circuit using roads built for the Olympics and winding around the Olympic Park and its various venues. The race has a contract to run on the Hermann Tilke-penned layout until 2020, with an option to extend that deal if all parties are happy.

"It's well on track," he claimed to Reuters reporters, "It was decided that the IOC will review the final feasibility study at the forthcoming executive project review in May and they will see the real construction design document to realise the overlapping with the Olympic infrastructure. It's a great project in terms of creating the additional legacy and to fulfil the Olympic Park with the post-Games activities.

"[F1] is a great attraction to speed up and attract the potential owners of the commercial property that will be built, [while] we are going to build about 20,000 rooms for the Games, some [of which] will be apartments. They should be on sale with some clear reason why people should buy them. Such regular events like F1 ... will attract the commercial buyer.

"There are pure endorsement and mutual benefits for both Olympic Games and F1 project," said Chernyshenko. "[The race] will not impact on the timeframe of the preparation for the Games."

Where F1, and the World Cup, may well hit the Olympics, however, is on the sponsorship front, with Chernyshenko admitting that the three competitions are vying for the same financial support.

While Sochi has already matched the amount of funding that Beijing achieved for its summer Olympics in 2008 - so far securing deals worth a $1.1bn for what, financially, is the most successful winter games ever - it appears that a far bigger figure is being prevented by interest in Russia's bids for F1 and the World Cup. Another $200m is expected to join the sponsorship already acquired for the Olympics, but its rivals are proving to be equally attractive to sponsors.

"The more Russia obtains the right to host major events, the more there is competition," Chernyshenko admitted, "The competitive environment is getting tougher."

With Vitaly Petrov now an F1 podium visitor and sportscar manufacturer taking a financial interest in Virgin Racing, Sochi looks more likely than any previous grand prix project to get off the ground.


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