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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Secures Sochi Victory

Backed by the president's personal lobbying effort, charisma and government support, Sochi was elected Wednesday as the host city of the 2014 Winter Games.

Sochi defeated the South Korean city of Pyeongchang by four votes in the final round of a secret ballot by the International Olympic Committee, taking the Winter Games to Russia for the first time.

The result was a personal triumph for "the captain," who put his international prestige on the line by coming to Guatemala to lobby IOC members and lead Sochi's final formal presentation.

"Putin being here was very important," said French IOC member and former ski champion Jean-Claude Killy. "He worked very hard at it. He was nice. He spoke French -- he never speaks French. He spoke English -- he never speaks English.

"The Putin charisma can explain four votes."

The Austrian resort of Salzburg was eliminated in the first round, unable to compete with the political and economic might of its Russian and South Korean rivals.

Pyeongchang led the first round with 36 votes, followed by Sochi with 34 and Salzburg with 25. Sochi picked up 17 votes in the second round to secure the victory.

"The captain of our team today raised our team to a completely different level," Russian sports chief Vyacheslav Fetisov said of Putin.

He had left Guatemala by the time the result was announced but called IOC president Jacques Rogge from his plane when he heard the news. Putin expressed his "deep gratitude" and confirmed Russia will complete all the Olympic projects in time and on budget, Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov said.

The Putin magic matched Blair's influence on London's victory in the race for the 2012 Summer Olympics. Blair was instrumental in wooing IOC members in Singapore in 2005, helping London defeat Paris, Madrid, New York and Moscow. Putin did not travel to Singapore for that bid, which lost in the first round.

"If Putin is not here, I think it would be different results," said IOC executive board member Sergei Bubka, a Ukrainian won a pole vault gold medal for the Soviet Union at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. "He did a fantastic presentation -- his speeches, his communication with people these last few days. They were very impressed about his personality, his intelligence. I think this final touch made the difference."

Rogge also spoke of the importance of Putin's backing.

"This is very reassuring for the International Olympic Committee," he said. "It guarantees us the support of the public authorities of the country. ... Today a successful bid is a bid that entails the whole country and population."

Sochi bid chief Dmitry Chernyshenko called the victory a "key moment in Russian history."

"You have decided to play a major role in Russia's future. The games will help Russia's transition as a young democracy," he said.

Zhukov said the decision was a reward for the "largest winter country in the world," where winter sports is "part of our soul and heritage."

"The whole of Russia will be celebrating these days," he said. "We understand lots of [work] is waiting for us once more."

The government has pledged $12 billion to develop Sochi into a world-class winter sports complex linking the palm-lined Black Sea coast to the soaring Caucasus mountains nearby.

Putin 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 most venues must be newly built, Putin assured, "We guarantee the Olympic cluster in Sochi will be completed on time.

"No traffic jams, I promise," he said with a smile.

Russia, an Olympic power that has won 293 Winter Games medals, has never hosted the Winter Games. That was a strong point in Sochi's favor with the IOC, which likes to spread the Olympics to new host countries. Moscow hosted the 1980 Summer Games, which were hit by the U.S.-led boycott following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

The Sochi bid won out over the appeals of its rivals -- Salzburg, presenting itself as a safe, no-risk winter sports mecca at the heart of Europe with world-class venues already in place; and Pyeongchang, offering the potential for peace and reconciliation on the divided Korean Peninsula and promoting winter sports in Asia.

It's the second time in a row that Pyeongchang has lost by a handful of votes after leading in the first round. The Koreans lost 56-53 to Vancouver, British Columbia, for the 2010 Olympics four years ago.

This time, ninety-seven IOC members were eligible to vote in the first round, with 95 casting valid ballots. Members from bidding countries are ineligible to vote as long as their cities remain in contention. With Salzburg out, 100 delegates were eligible in the second round, with 98 casting valid votes.

The Russian delegation erupted in cheers, jumped to their feet and hugged each other after Rogge opened a sealed envelope and read the words: "The International Olympic Committee has the honor of announcing the 22nd Olympic Winter Games in 2014 are awarded to the city of Sochi."

Many of the winning delegation headed across the street to Russia House, where they waved the Russian flag, played the national anthem and celebrated on a specially constructed ice rink.

In Sochi, cheers erupted from the crowd of more than 15,000 that had gathered for a pop concert and the announcement in a main square.

"We did it all together. We won," the concert's announcer said from the stage as fireworks flashed and boomed in the sky.

People hugged and waved their hands in the air. Some appeared to have tears in their eyes.

"It is great. I've never been so happy in my life," said Marina Matveyeva, 23, who works in a bank. "It means that Russia has reached the level of Europe, and we can be proud of our country."