Feb 07 - The final countdown to the Winter Olympics in the Russian resort of Sochi has been hit by controversy - from reports of unfinished hotels to security fears. Now the United States has warned airports and some airlines flying to Russia over possible bomb ingredients in toothpaste tubes. It's the latest headache for the Games' organisers, and Joanna Partridge asks if the stories out of Sochi could hurt the Olympic brand.
It's just the latest security concern for the organisers of the Winter Olympics. The United States has warned airports and some airlines flying to Russia that toothpaste tubes could hold ingredients to make a bomb. It's not clear if specific intelligence led to the warning. There's already a large security presence in the Black Sea resort - and forces are on high alert, says Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak. SOUNDBITE: RUSSIAN DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER, DMITRY KOZAK, SAYING (Russian): "I would like to repeat the level of security in the city of Sochi is not worse than in New York, London, Washington, or Boston." One Swiss athlete is more concerned about his own performance. SOUNDBITE: Gregory Carigiet, Swiss luger, saying (English): "I don't really care or listen to this stuff outside. I just focus on my race." Security worries aside, the final countdown to the Games has been plagued by controversies. From Sochi's double toilets - to U.S. snowboarder Shaun White pulling out of the slopestyle event due to concerns the course was too dangerous. As the first guests began to arrive, many hotels weren't ready for them. Most weren't even built when the IOC chose Sochi back in 2007, neither were most of the venues. The Games are the most expensive ever staged - in summer or winter - with a projected price tag of $50 billion. They're meant to be Vladimir Putin's crowning achievement as Russian leader. But the run-up to the event has also shone a spotlight on the country's problems - especially the recent law banning gay propaganda. Even so the Olympics will always be a big draw for sponsors, says David Haigh, CEO of Brand Finance. SOUNDBITE: David Haigh, CEO, Brand Finance, saying (English): "The Olympics is by far the biggest brand, both summer and winter. Brands always gain or lose by the associations they make, and I am sure the Olympic Committee went into the relationship with Sochi, and Russia, knowing there were one or two challenges they would have to face. I hope for their sake that the challenges are managed, because the Olympics is a wonderful brand and we don't want to see it go downhill." The huge cost to Russia of hosting the Games may also have a chilling effect for others. Several cities have already pulled out of the race to hold the 2022 winter competition due to cost concerns. No matter how successful the Sochi Games are - the Olympic brand seems stronger than individual hosts - and bound to remain attractive to sponsors, athletes and visitors.