SOCHI, (Russia), Nov 10 — Amid the dust and the rubble, and the rumbling, wheezing construction vehicles, it takes a fair stretch of imagination to picture Sochi's Winter Olympic playground in its pomp.
But ignore the landscape of lorries and cement mixers hauling materials up and down the sometimes unmade roads.
Ignore the gangs of workers in concrete-encrusted boots work on embryonic scaffold-clad buildings.
Ignore too the main stadium which sits mid-construction, its yawning innards bared to the skies. Because most other venues are complete, or near completion, and organisers say they are bang on schedule.
With 15 months to go before the Feb. 7 Opening Ceremony, although the venues nestle in a Black Sea resort mostly resembling a building site, nothing suggests any concern over readiness.
Construction will be completed by August 2013, organisers say. At that stage work will be halted on some commercial properties to begin the much-needed beautification of the area. The commercial buildings will then be finished once the Olympic party has left town.
"We have to postpone finishing the commercial properties in the city because we want the city to look good," Sochi native and organising committee president Dmitry Chernyshenko told reporters in Sochi this week.
"Those who won't be able to finish by August will have to wait not to harm the environment because we will clean and purify the city to prepare for the Games, and then it will continue after the Games."
Certainly scruffy buildings will have no place on the canvas for a Russia hoping to use the Sochi Winter Olympics to showcase itself much the same way China used the 2008 Beijing Games.
"Beijing was presenting to the world the Chinese can-do," International Olympic Committee member Kevan Gosper said.
"Russia, as Russia, is now making a new presentation of itself to the world, following the long history of the Tsarist and Soviet times," the Australian added.
"You can see at first hand the can-do attitude which is now known as the new Russia, 23 years after the break-up of the Soviet Union. The 2014 Games will mark the new Russia's 25th anniversary."
The 2014 Winter Games will take place in two centres, the Coastal Cluster along the Black Sea shore in the Imeretinskaya Valley and the Mountain Cluster in Krasnaya Polyana.
Between those two Olympic clusters, 98 events in 15 winter sports will be held during the Feb 7-23 extravaganza. — Reuters