SOCHI, Russia Preparations in Russia's Black Sea resort are in full swing less than six months before the start of the 2014 Winter Olympics, with the hosts bracing for the torch-lighting ceremony in ancient Olympia, Greece, next month.
Organisers are rushing to complete the venues for the first Winter Games to be held in Russia, a traditional winter sports powerhouse, before the symbolic start of the Games run-up with the torch lighting at the site of the ancient Olympic Games in Greece on September 29.
With Russia in the eye of a media storm over its recently adopted anti-gay propaganda law that has triggered protests across many countries, work at the Fisht Olympic stadium and the other Games venues continues unabated as workers put the finishing touches to the stadiums and shape the surrounding areas.
"The preparations are going well and everybody is working incredibly hard to make sure that we reach all of our targets," Games chief Dmitry Chernyshenko said just days ago. "We have received brilliant feedback at every stage.
"The test competitions have passed successfully, which was proved by positive feedback," he added.
Organisers tested the Olympic venues during the 2012-2013 winter season, with Sochi hosting major events in all 15 winter disciplines, with more than 3,000 athletes taking part.
The Games are divided into two clusters with the city's Sochi Olympic park and the mountain cluster of biathlon, Alpine skiing and sliding venues some 40 kilometres away.
Sochi will see the Olympic flame land in Russia on October 7 before kicking off what is expected to be the longest torch relay for any Winter Olympics.
The Olympic flame will cover some 65,000 kilometres across Russia and will visit more than 2,900 towns and settlements, carried by more than 14,000 bearers.
The Games will open on February 7 and run to February 23. (Writing by Karolos Grohmann, Editing by Ossian Shine)