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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Games' Plans Are Laid, Sunny Sky 'Guaranteed'

ST. PETERSBURG -- Athletes have started arriving for the Goodwill Games, and officials say the city is ready for the first international sports event in Russia since the Soviet collapse.


"For us, the games began today," Vitaly Mutko, the first deputy mayor, said Wednesday.


Workers continued to make last-minute renovations at the Army Club's pool, but promised to finish the work by Friday, Mutko said.


The other 11 major sports facilities are prepared for the games, which officially open Saturday.


St. Petersburg Mayor Anatoly Sobchak, who chaired a city government session Wednesday, thanked the 200,000 people involved in preparing for the games. "We have accomplished an enormous job," he said. "The funniest thing is that we nearly had to do it free of charge. The financial issues were finally settled only in the last weeks."


According to Mutko, the games' budget stands at 150 billion rubles ($74 million). Russia already has spent 64 billion rubles ($32 million) of that.


Sobchak said the city now only had to remove garbage and put up decorations.


"If there are clouds in the sky on opening day, we will disperse them," he said.


Special planes will be ready to break up clouds on the games' opening and closing days, at a cost of 35 million rubles ($17,000), said Vyacheslav Cherepov, one of the games' organizers.


There seemed to be little cause for concern, however. Meteorologists predicted better-than-usual weather for the Goodwill Games with warmer temperatures and sunny days.


At the huge gray Pribaltiskaya Hotel on the Gulf of Finland, Lena, the chief porter, was busy greeting the first 70 athletes who arrived Wednesday. The hotel will house all 2,400 athletes in the games. The United States and Russia have the largest teams -- 488 and 462 members respectively.


About 5,500 people -- students, athletes and cadets of military academies -- are to take part in the opening ceremony Saturday at the giant Kirov stadium, which Russian President Boris Yeltsin has promised to attend.