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Vladimir Putin returns to Sochi to inspect preparations for the Winter Olympics

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This weekend Russian President Vladamir Putin is visiting Sochi, the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics, to check on the progress first-hand.

After an emotional visit to Volgograd, Russia on New Year’s Day to reassure the million residents still reeling from the deadly bombings earlier this week, Putin began his inspection on Friday in the coastal area of Sochi that borders the Black Sea.

"In the coming days, the president will carefully examine all sites of the mountain cluster and the coastal cluster," presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov said.

Since Putin’s last visit on November 29 to this area, which is undergoing a huge overhaul in time for these Winter Games, construction on hotels, roads, public areas, etc. has progressed at an intense rate. He previously issued a warning, which was not warmly received by these workers, that they must continue this pace through the holidays with little break.

Today, he first toured the Krasnaya Polyana mountain region, about a 40-minute ride from the seaside Sochi area. Here he assessed the venue readiness for such events as alpine skiing, snowboarding, and ski jumping.

Continuing into the weekend, he will evaluate the headway made within the reconstructed city of Sochi, and the nearby coastal cluster area in Adler where figure skating, speed skating, curling, and ice hockey will be contested.

Peskov said the president plans to "pay special attention not to the sites that are fully ready and are waiting for guests, but those which still have some minor deficiencies."

Among his targets of focus will be the unfinished hotels in downtown Sochi – some of which will not be ready in time for the Winter Games just five weeks away. Due to these delays, the Sochi Olympics Organizing Committee is scrambling to ensure all lodging reservations will be fulfilled.

While the coastal cluster competition venues have long been completed and trialed via test events during the last two winter seasons, he will focus instead on the Olympics Stadium – the showpiece for the opening and closing ceremonies. This 40,000 seat Fisht venue has yet to be officially announced as completed. As a result, the hundreds of entertainment troupes have been forced instead to practice their elaborate show routines in the much smaller hockey arena.

Yet most importantly, he will be scrutinizing all security plans for this security zone footprint (100km by 40km) which will be protected by approximately 40,000 personnel. He is expected to assure the world that the Winter Olympics will be safe, on the heels of a controversial statement made soon after the Volgograd bombings. “We won’t take any additional [security] steps,” said Ilya Djous, a spokesman for Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak, regarding Sochi Olympics safety.

Follow me on Twitter for the latest news on the Sochi Winter Olympics!

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