The Audit Chamber, the government’s auditing agency, raised concerns about the future of the Olympic venues. Chairman Sergei Stepashin quoted expert estimates that maintaining the venues would cost Russia at least 60 billion rubles a year ($2 billion).
Kozak dismissed Stepashin’s estimate, saying that it will cost “at least 10 times less.”
Olympic spectators and organizers say Krasnaya Polyana is a potential magnet for tourists. But industry experts are cautious about its long-term prospects.
Russian fans at the Olympic Park this weekend were optimistic about Sochi’s future, but all of them complained about prices, saying they are too high compared to other eastern or central European destinations.
“We see that Sochi has changed for the better,” Mikhail Savrasov from Latvia, said. “I hope the prices will go down.”
Ski resorts in the area reported strong sales in December and January before they were closed for the Olympics, and they say they will adjust prices once life in Sochi gets back to normal.
“From what we’ve seen so far the interest is huge,” said Alexander Belokobylsky, director of Rosa Khutor resort up in Krasnaya Polyana. The company is now looking forward to the next season to see how well they can do when the games are over.
“A certain price adjustment will definitely come,” Belokobylsky said: “If we see that our prices are too high and we don’t get visitors we will adjust.”
Business and the travel industry experts, however, don’t hold out much hope for Sochi as an international destination despite the breath-taking mountains and new hotels.
Unlike most European resorts, Sochi is hard to get to. There are few direct flights to Europe from Sochi, and airport fees at the Sochi Adler airport are too high for low-cost airlines to fly here. And Europeans need to apply for a visa if they want to come to Russia.
“Europeans can travel to most places in the world visa-free: Why would they want to come here if they need to get a visa?” asks Kantorovich.
Belokobylsky of Rosa Khutor recalls praise and admiration he has heard from foreign officials and journalists in the past weeks, but says that getting them to come back here will be difficult.
“We need direct flights,” he said. “But these are things we cannot influence.”