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Environmentalists praise govt. support of Sochi Olympic bid

MOSCOW, February 15 (RIA Novosti) - There will be no problems with ecology during preparation for Olympic Games in the Russian southern city of Sochi owing to close cooperation between environmentalists and authorities, the World Wildlife Fund's Russia director said Thursday.

The Black Sea resort has been short-listed as a host city for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, along with Austria's Salzburg and South Korea's PyeongChang. The city previously bid for the 1998 and 2002 Winter Olympics, but was rejected largely due to its poor-quality Soviet-era infrastructure. The winner of the bid will be unveiled in July 2007 in Guatemala City.

"There will be no conflicts [with the state] over the ecological situation in Sochi," Igor Chestin said after a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov and Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref.

Chestin said that the meeting was held in a constructive atmosphere and the government officials agreed that the current ecology situation in the city was far from being perfect.

"The participants [of the meeting] recognized the existence of [ecological] problems and agreed that they should be resolved through cooperative efforts with direct involvement of ecology experts," he said.

The head of WWF Russia said that the federal targeted program for Sochi's development will undergo ecological assessment and land parcels in the resort city will not be leased without prior approval by the environmental watchdog.

Deputy PM Zhukov, who heads the organizing committee promoting the city as a venue for the Winter Olympics and Paralympics to be held in seven years' time, said in January that construction of new hotels and alpine skiing slopes is already underway at Krasnaya Polyana, the centerpiece of the Russian town's Olympic bid, and a favorite spot of President Vladimir Putin, as well as in the neighboring resort city of Gelendzhik, where 170 new hotels are under construction.

Zhukov also said that a total of $12 billion will be allocated by the government for Sochi's development under the federal program.

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