Dmitry Chernyshenko: With two years to go to Sochi 2014 I aim to enjoy every single minute of the countdown

Monday, 06 February 2012
Dmitry Chernyshenko_06-02-12I was 11 years old when my country hosted its first ever Olympic Games which coincidently, like Sochi 2014, was the XXII edition – but in this case, of the Summer Games.

I was just an ordinary boy and, like many of my classmates, all I wanted was to have an item of Olympic memorabilia. My Mum got me a pin with Misha bear, the symbol of the Moscow 1980 Games. I still cherish that pin today.

Who would have thought that years later, Russia's first ever Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games would come to Sochi and I would find myself President and chief of the Sochi 2014 Organising Committee?

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In exactly two years time, on February 7, 2014, the Sochi 2014 Winter Games will begin with a spectacular Opening Ceremony in the Olympic Stadium at the heart of our Olympic Park – a compact cluster of competition, media and accommodation venues situated right on the coast.

And for the two weeks after the Games' opening, and then again for the nine days of the Paralympic Winter Games, the world's finest winter athletes will compete in Sochi and in our Mountain Cluster venues, only some 30 minutes away, for the glory of taking part in the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

It is a huge undertaking for us: 98 medal events in seven Olympic sports with 5500 athletes and officials from 80 nations. And 70 medal events in five Paralympic sports with 1,350 athletes and officials from 40 nations.

There will be 2,800 accredited journalists and photographers at our Games with a worldwide television audience of about three billion.

I mean to say, how would you feel if three billion people were looking in on your work?!

But despite these challenges, we will deliver on all our promises because we have built up one inspired team. I am fortunate to be surrounded by amazing and talented people who share my passion and my commitment for this once in a lifetime opportunity.

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As the Olympic Flame is extinguished on March 16, 2014 at the conclusion of the Paralympic Winter Games, we would have only reached the halfway stage of our incredible journey. The post-Games legacy story that will positively transform society will begin to unfold in Russia.

But actually the legacy of the Sochi Games has already been – and is being – widely felt across Russia. In fact the Games legacy began straight after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) awarded the Games to Sochi back in 2007.

I am hugely proud of the tangible benefits that are being felt throughout Russian society as a direct result of the Sochi 2014 Games preparation.

Take, for example, volunteerism.

In the post-Soviet era, Russia did not have a volunteer culture.

It was the Sochi 2014 project that acted as a catalyst for Russia to embrace the concept.

There will be 25,000 volunteers for the Sochi 2014 Games. The process of selecting and training these volunteers has already begun in earnest with volunteers trained at special centres in 26 universities across Russia.

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Our very first volunteers have already attended the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games and many other major events in Sochi and Russia as part of their training process.

And several of our leading volunteers were actively involved in helping to deliver the inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck last month. I was so proud of the way they conducted themselves and by the positive response they received from the Olympic Family.

Our volunteers will also be involved in the forthcoming pre-test events this month, as well as having an active involvement during the London 2012 Games.

Today, the notion of volunteerism is enshrined in Russian law. Sochi 2014 is helping to increase the number of Russians involved in volunteer activity from around nine per cent at present to over 25 per cent as in other European countries.

But Sochi 2014's legacy today goes much further. Already there is a significant increase in awareness and appreciation of the role that people with a disability play in Russian society.

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There is also a better understanding of the need to adopt international standards in corporate governance and transparency. Sochi 2014 is demonstrating a best practice model in this regard.

And the Sochi 2014 Games are helping Russia to adopt the highest standards in environmental and ecological sustainability.  I love the fact that one of our Games mascots is the snow leopard, which was the species we recently reintroduced to the caucuses as part of our green Games policy!

I know from talking to my good friend, Lord Sebastian Coe that the next two years will go in the blink of an eye. But it is an incredible honour to lead this project of national importance and, despite the inevitable challenges that lie ahead, I aim to enjoy every single minute of the countdown.

Because, on the eve of the Games, I want to stand on the Black Sea shore and look up at the snow-capped mountains around my home city, confident that we have done everything possible to ensure the world receives the warmest of Russian welcomes; that we have done everything possible to ensure that Russia's first ever Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games will be the most innovative and inspirational in history.

Dmitry Chernyshenko is President and chief executive of Sochi 2014
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