$14Bln Sought for Olympics Transport

In a State Duma meeting light on specifics, government officials said Wednesday that more than 332 billion rubles ($13.8 billion) would be needed to develop transportation infrastructure for the 2014 Sochi Olympics but refused to predict a total cost for the preparations.

The announcement came as ministers and Olympic officials faced a round of questions in the Duma on the progress being made to prepare for the games and the lack of clarity over how much the developments will ultimately cost.

Transportation Minister Igor Levitin said that, of the total figure, 135 billion rubles needed to be spent on the Black Sea town's road network, while 22 billion was required for the sea links. Adequate access to Sochi's airport would cost another 23 billion rubles, Levitin said.

Just over 300 billion rubles of the funding will come from the federal budget, he said.

Despite attempts to get them to name an overall figure for developing the Olympic sites, ministers refused to predict the total cost. Regional Development Minister Dmitry Kozak said the figures would only be made available by the end of the year and that he did not know how much private investment would be needed.

Semyon Vainshtok, head of the state corporation responsible for the Olympic construction, warned that original estimates for the development costs could rise, given that some expenses, including the cost of buying land, were excluded from the original pricing plan.

The official hesitancy drew criticism from inside the Duma, with Speaker Boris Gryzlov saying, "Clearly not everything has been decided, even on a conceptual level."

Kozak did, however, specify that as many as 180,000 workers would be needed to get the region ready for the games. He also sought to allay widespread fears that the Sochi construction rush could see local residents moved out of their homes without proper compensation.

"We are doing all we can to ensure that none of our citizens' rights are harmed," Kozak said. About 700 hectares of land will have to be taken from private ownership to make way for Olympic sites, Kozak said.

Late last month, Audit Chamber chief Sergei Stepashin said that earlier estimates of how much it would take to turn Sochi into a world-class resort were likely to double. A federal program had originally set aside 314 billion rubles for developing the Olympic sites.

n LUKoil said Wednesday that it was planning to invest $400 million to build a network of Olympic-themed gas stations along the route to Sochi, Interfax reported.

The high-tech gas stations would occupy about 2 hectares, have noncash payment facilities, Internet access and parking for commercial vehicles and tour buses, LUKoil first vice president Vladimir Nekrasov said at a project presentation in Krasnodar. The stations -- planned for Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Poland, Hungry, Romania, Moldova, Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan -- would include symbols for the Sochi Olympics, Nekrasov said.