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National leaders push bids before vote on 2014 Olympics

SHARE National leaders push bids before vote on 2014 Olympics

GUATEMALA CITY — Russia offered vast public spending and the support of its powerful president for the 2014 Winter Olympics, while Austria promised to "rock the world" with a no-risk event, hours before Wednesday's final vote on the site.

The leaders of Russia, Austria and South Korea put their prestige on the line by personally leading their countries' final appeals to the International Olympic Committee, which was to vote Wednesday night after a yearslong lobbying campaign that cost tens of millions of dollars.

Russian President Vladimir Putin promised "a safe, enjoyable and memorable experience" — and no traffic jams — in Sochi, a city better known abroad as a Black Sea beach resort at the foot of a mountain range.

He noted Russia has allocated $12 billion to beef up winter sports facilities ahead of the Olympics.

Putin, one of the world's most powerful figures, emphasized his commitment to Russia's first Winter Olympics by making a rare formal presentation in English, and by closing in French: "Millions of Russians await your decision with hope."

He praised Sochi's natural setting, saying, "On the seashore you can enjoy a fine spring day, but up in the mountains, it's winter ... a real snow is guaranteed."

Although the site will have to be built largely from scratch, Putin assured, "We guarantee the Olympic cluster in Sochi will be completed on time."

Austria promised easy-to-reach, well-established venues in Salzburg, a ski resort in the heart of Europe, and said it would bring more fans — and more long-term profits — to the Olympic movement.

Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer, whose team followed the Russians, promised to "take the Olympic Games back to the fundamental core of the Olympic ideals. Winter sport is in our DNA."

Salzburg Mayor Heinz Schaden promised "no risk, all return and a boost to the Olympic movement," portraying Salzburg as a city that "will embrace the spirit of the Olympic movement and hand it back to you even stronger."

"If you combine the brand of the Winter Games with the brand of Salzburg, you create a momentum that will rock the world," Schaden said.

Mindful that the city's failed Mozart-themed bid for the 2010 games was considered confusing and stodgy, Austria presented a film of young locals celebrating to "We Will Rock You."

All three candidates are gambling national pride. Putin, Gusenbauer and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun came to Guatemala City, the first time in Olympic bidding history that each of the candidate cities has been represented at the presentation by its head of government.

Delegates for Pyeongchang also were to speak before the IOC members cast secret ballots — most likely in two rounds, since none of the three is likely to win the 49 votes needed to win outright on the first ballot.

Russian officials have portrayed the lack of winter sports facilities in Sochi — often called "the Russian Riviera" — as an advantage, boasting of a "brand new, purpose-built" site.

The Austrians say their central position in Europe will make it easy for millions to attend the games cheaply.

The Koreans already are investing more than $1 billion in Pyeongchang for other sports festivals and say the games — in the only province divided between North and South Korea — would help reconciliation in the divided nation. They say they hope for a joint North-South Korean team.

Members from bidding countries are ineligible to vote as long as their cities remain in contention, and some members are absent. So only 97 of the 111 IOC members can vote in the first round.

The city with the fewest votes is eliminated, setting up a two-way final in which the top two finishers try to pull backers from the city knocked out first. The vote is particularly open because about half of the IOC's members have little connection with winter sports.

Austria has staged the Winter Games at Innsbruck in 1964 and 1976. Russia has won 293 Winter Olympic medals but has staged only the Summer Olympics, at Moscow in 1980. South Korea held the 1988 Summer Games.