For the self-declared Republic of Abkhazia, the Games offer a chance to show the world that Abkhazia exists and that it can stand on its own feet. The question is whether its economy can be ready in time.
At first glance, the odds would seem long. Natural beauty may abound in this breakaway Black Sea territory, but the sights come with no commercial airport, no credit card services or ATMs and, after a 13-year economic blockade, limited consumer retail options. Officials say Abkhazia has three years to make the necessary infrastructure repairs, reopen its main airport and upgrade hotels and financial services.
"This is a very, very big challenge for Abkhazia," commented de facto Abkhaz Deputy Foreign Minister Maxim Gunjia in a recent interview with EurasiaNet. "[W]e will have a huge international project next to our borders and we'll have to correspond to [international] standards . . . if we want to benefit from the winter Olympics, we have to start working right now."
That work -- in various forms and with sizeable Russian assistance -- has already begun.
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Elizabeth Owen is EurasiaNets Caucasus news editor in Tbilisi.