Russia: Construction chief's exit won't harm Sochi

The replacement of the construction chief for the 2014 Winter Olympics was not related to corruption concerns and won't affect preparations for the Sochi Games, the Russian government minister overseeing the project said Tuesday.

Taimuraz Bolloyev, head of the state Olympstroi corporation, stepped down Monday for what the company described as health reasons. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin appointed 40-year-old Sergei Gaplikov, a deputy head of Putin's staff, to replace him.

The Black Sea resort of Sochi is building nearly all Olympic venues from scratch in a multi-billion-dollar project.

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak said a "solid management system" is in place at Olympstroi to ensure the construction projects are completed on time. No major changes of personnel are expected, he said in a statement.

The International Olympic Committee also expressed confidence that the departure of Bolloyev would not slow the preparation work.

"A lot of progress has been made and we are confident that the structures put in place by Sochi 2014 and the Russian government will ensure that his departure will not impact on the progress currently being made," the IOC said in a statement to The Associated Press.

Bolloyev was appointed in 2009 by Putin, whose backing for the games was a key factor in Sochi winning the bid. In November 2009, the prosecutor general accused Olympstroi of misusing funds, unfair tenders and unjustifiably high labor costs.

"There were no facts presented concerning abuse or corruption at either SC Olympstroi or any other authority body, despite the close scrutiny from a number of different bodies," Kozak said. "The Olympstroi security service has revealed some violations and passed them to the relevant law enforcement bodies. However, these cases have nothing to do with corruption."

Originally, $12 billion of public and private money was earmarked for Russia's first Winter Games, but that figure is thought to have spiraled.

Bolloyev's departure came as Sochi organizers prepare to stage the first test events for the games. The lower-tier Europa Cup Alpine ski races are scheduled for Feb. 15-18 and Feb. 22-26 in the Krasnaya Polyana mountains.