Putin sacks Russian Olympic official over Sochi delays

Russian Olympic Committee member Akhmed Bilalov is removed from his position and publically criticized as costs for the 2016 Winter Olympics in Sochi likely to top $50 billion.

SOCHI, Russia – President Vladimir Putin dismissed a senior Russian Olympic Committee official on Thursday over rising costs and delays in construction work for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Putin had criticized Akhmed Bilalov, the vice president of Russia's Olympic Committee, during a tour of the venues in front of television cameras on Wednesday when he was told of the delays at the ski jumping venue and that costs had soared.

"People who do not fulfill their obligations on such a scale cannot lead the Olympic movement in our country," Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak told reporters in Sochi.

By dismissing Bilalov, Putin appeared to sending a warning to others involved in the Games preparations that he will not put up with any further delays and higher costs.

Putin has also warned against corruption pushing up the costs, already expected to reach $50 billion.

The Olympics are a priority for Putin in his third term as president. He sees them as an opportunity to showcase Russia as a modern democracy capable of organizing global events, two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Kozak said Bilalov, 42, was also likely to be sacked from his post on the board of the Resorts of the North Caucasus, a state firm created to develop a chain of luxury resorts.

Moscow hopes the resorts will help end a cycle of joblessness that has helped fuel militant violence in the mainly Muslim provinces of the North Caucasus that lie southwest of Sochi.

Security risks in the nearby regions are of paramount importance to the Kremlin ahead of the Games.

Additional reporting by Alexei Anishchuk

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