Prime Minister Vladimir Putin appointed a new head of construction for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi on Monday, two weeks before athletes arrive for the first Olympic test events.

The state Olimpstroy corporation said its chief, Taimuraz Bolloyev, stepped down for health reasons, Russian news agencies reported.

Putin signed orders later in the day relieving Bolloyev of his duties and appointing 40-year-old Sergei Gaplikov, a deputy head of Putin's staff, to replace him.

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

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

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

Bolloyev was appointed in 2009 by Putin, whose backing for the games was a key factor in Sochi winning the bid.

Putin mandated Bolloyev to supervise spending closely, but in November 2009 the prosecutor general accused Olimpstroy of misusing funds, unfair tenders and unjustifiably high labour costs.

Human rights activists have accused Sochi organizers of badly mistreating construction workers and said some went for long periods without pay.

In previous jobs, Bolloyev helped turn the St. Petersburg-based Baltika Breweries into one of Europe's largest and ran an apparel company that supplied uniforms to airlines and train operators.