Feb 10 2013, 4:50am CST | by Luigi Lugmayr
Moscow, Feb 10 (IANS/RIA Novosti) President Vladimir Putin's spokesman rejected claims that an official who was fired after criticism from Putin is merely a scapegoat for problems at the world's most expensive Olympics.
Akhmed Bilalov was removed as vice-chairman of the Russian Olympic Committee Thursday after Putin criticised him for his work in a previous job in charge of the RusSki Gorki Olympic ski jump complex, which was slated for completion in 2011 but is not expected to be ready until July.
The timing of the announcement attracted claims that Bilalov had been made a scapegoat, coming exactly a year before the Opening Ceremony and days after the government revealed the games would cost over $50 billion.
"There's no need to approach this story as an exemplary whipping. It's not about campaigning or making someone a scapegoat. Someone who bears responsibility for failure must bear it but the main thing is to work through all the terms of completion for the facilities," presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Saturday.
While in-charge of the ski jump complex, Bilalov failed to pay sufficient attention to geological problems that affected construction, deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak said Thursday.
Bilalov, a former parliamentarian for the ruling United Russia Party, was also fired as head of a government company managing ski resorts in the North Caucasus. He is also head of the Russian Golf Association, which is putting together a Russian team for the sport's debut at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016. His future in that post was not immediately clear.
Test events planned at the RusSki Gorki jump facility last year were cancelled amid construction delays but the site has hosted World Cup ski jumping and Nordic combined this season.
The centre is situated on the northern slope of the Aibaga Ridge in the mountains above Sochi. The ramps are located at the junction of two ridges to protect athletes from side-winds that could pose serious problems during competition. A 2,500 metre-long ski track for the Nordic combined event is next to the jumps.
The Games start Feb 7 next year.
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