The Olympic Games, opportunity to modernise transport infrastructures

The recent editions of the Olympic Games have proven that transport infrastructure investments, as well as energy investments represent a more efficient solution than investments in sport facilities. Therefore, most cities which host such competitions concentrate their budget on improving their existing sport facilities, while the remaining funds on improving transport and energy supply infrastructures, investments which prove to be more sustainable than those in vast Olympic Villages or tourism constructions. These facilities  have proven their long-term inefficiency, a relevant example being that of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. A good example is also the city of Sochi, the host of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games where 70% of the budget will be allocated for the construction of communication and energy infrastructures.

After 2000, the problem of long-term utility of the Olympic Winter Games organisation was raised, as well as their financial impact on local communities and budgets. The studies of the International Olympic Committee have shown that, in the future, a limited number of localities will afford to organise an event the size of the Olympic Games. It was made perfectly clear that changes were imposed in the financial approach of competitions to relaunch and maintain the Olympic spirit that would enable a further accessibility to the organisation of the Olympic Games. For the Olympic Winter Games the change came from the fact that important urban cities were designated to host the competition to the detriment of renowned tourism locations, an initiative which also generated the necessity of upgrading urban and access transport networks or energy networks, as well as the attraction of the private business in supporting investment efforts.

Sochi, the most expensive Olympic Winter Games in history

The Olympic Games in Sochi are expected to be the most expensive Olympic Games in history, not from the point of view of investments in sport facilities but from those in the city’s infrastructure and especially in the transport network and energy installations, with investments expected to hit USD 35 Billion.

The most important projects related to railway transport are the light metro in Sochi which includes the connection with Sochi International Airport and the modernisation of the line between Sochi and Moscow.

Sochi Light Metro Rail (LMR) is a fast traffic network currently under development and with estimated construction costs reaching USD 758.8 Million. LMR will include 3 interconnected lines with a total length of 86.4 km and 24 stations, with sections suspended on trestles or underground galleries according to land characteristics. The lines will cross the following routes: Olympic Village –  Grushevaya Polyana, via Sochi International Airport (49.9 km; 6 stations), Olympic Village –  Mamayka, via Adler and Sochi Centre with potential western extensions to Dagomys and Uch-Dere (36.3 km, 20 stations) and Sochi Centre – Grushevaya Polyana, via Adler (69.9 km; 17 stations).

The Olympic Village –  Airport project includes the construction of 2.7 km of simple electrified line which will enter operation in the final quarter of 2011, total investments rising to 150 Million roubles (EUR 3.3 Million). Siemens will deliver 54 Desiro units running every 15 minutes and expected to carry around 64,000 passengers/day.

The winner of the tender for the delivery of the rolling stock to run on the lines between Sochi and Adler was announced in February 2009. Bombardier will deliver 54 9-car Spacium Class trains capable to accommodate 1,036 passengers and reach speeds of up to 160 km/h.

At the beginning of the year, Russian Ministry of Transport Igor Levitin said that the modernisation of the line to Moscow includes the infrastructure upgrading  that will allow trains to reach speeds of up to 200 km/h and cut time travel at less than 24 hours (as compared to the present 36 hours), thus ending the rumours according to which the construction of a high-speed line (300km/h) was very probable, a project which would have required RUB 197 Billion (USD 7.5 Billion).

Transport investments overshadow tourism investments

Torino, the host of the 2006 Olympic Winter games, decided that investments would equally be divided between the rehabilitation of the existing sport facilities and the modernisation of transport networks. Moreover, during the city’s promotion campaign, the municipality used images of the city’s  underground and of the railway high-speed line from Milan, instead of famous tourism attractions. Torino proved that ultramodern railway networks and underground systems can be tourist attractions themselves and can compensate for a strong cultural inheritance and patrimony.

This is what Vancouver plans to do as well, the host of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games displaying the image of a city of future, where environment protection is a priority and a responsibility to all members of the community given the permanent menace of global warming. Vancouver’s strategy focuses on railway transport whose development is also supported by Bombardier, partner and official sponsor of the Games. On the occasion, the company launched its latest generation of Skytrain  metros. To prove their commitment to the city’s development in full harmony with the environment, the Olympic flame torches  have been also made by Bombardier. On January 21, 2010, the company inaugurated a new tram transport service called Olympic Line, which ensures the tourists’ free access to the Olympic Village.

by Alin Lupulescu

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