Countdown to Sochi Olympics underway

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January 6, 2014, 2:47 pm
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(NECN/NBC News: Richard Engel) - The countdown to Sochi is underway.

Performers are already rehearsing inside the stadium where the opening ceremony will take place. The buildup to these games has been somewhat overshadowed by security concerns, but Russian officials insist they will be festive and safe.

With just one month to go until the Sochi Olympics, Russia does seem ready.

There's snow, and in case it gets warmer, Russia has almost a million cubic meters of snow frozen in reserves. The stadiums are built, although there's still some construction. The head of Sochi 2014, Dimitry Chernishenko, told NBC News Russia is on schedule.

"Yes, no doubts we're absolutely ready. We were training, learning for seven years," he said.

The officials clothing for the games is out, too.

Russia didn't have a little ski village at the base of slopes near Sochi, so it built one. In fact, it no only built a brand new town, but also built hundreds of miles of roads and train tracks leading here. With more than $50 billion spent so far, many say this is the most expensive Olympics ever.

These games may be as much about showing that the Russian bear is out of hibernation as they are about sports, but terrorism has come back to Russia, with two attacks just last month, and the militant leader of the Muslim North Caucuses has said the games are a target.

Russia's response is hard to miss, as tens of thousands of police and intelligence agents have descended on Sochi watching for terrorists.

And, according to investigative journalist Andrey Soldatov, watching everyone who comes here, after the government last November passed a decree to collect logs of communications data.

"All your communications will be exposed to the Russian secret services," Soldatov says.

As Sochi puts Russia back on the world stage - getting ready for the sports may prove to be the easy part.

Tags: Russia, Sochi, Vladimir Putin, Richard Engel, Sochi 2014, Winter Olympics 2014
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