Putin Promises No Discrimination At Games; Russian PM Denies Corruption Claims
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that "no athlete would face discrimination" at the Sochi Olympics, "hoping to ease international concern over a Russian law banning gay 'propaganda,'" according to Denis Dyomkin of REUTERS. In a speech to new foreign ambassadors presenting their credentials at a ceremony in the Kremlin, Putin "offered his latest assurance that every athlete will be treated equally." Putin: "The Olympic Games will be held in full compliance with the Olympic charter, without any discrimination on any basis. Russia will be rooting for its own athletes of course, but we wish success to all the athletes" (REUTERS, 1/16). R-SPORT reported Putin "has previously said that Russia will 'do everything' to ensure a warm welcome for Sochi guests 'regardless … of sexual orientation.'" Russia's Interior Ministry, which controls the police, "has vowed to enforce the controversial anti-gay law at the Olympics" (R-SPORT, 1/16).
DENYING ALLEGATIONS: R-SPORT also reported Russian Deputy PM Dmitry Kozak "has rejected claims" that preparations for the Sochi Olympics "have been blighted by massive misspending." IOC member Gian-Franco Kasper told Swiss radio last week that he believed up to a third of Sochi's alleged $50B budget "had been siphoned off, pointing the finger" at businessmen close to the Kremlin and Putin. Kozak said, "No such facts exist. There are abandoned projects, they do exist." Kozak said that "insignificant" money had been spent on feasibility studies on "moving the bobsled track and one of the Olympic villages." Kozak said that those "were the conclusions of the country's Audit Chamber after a check into Olympic spending," and insisted that the budget for the Winter Games "was closer" to $6.4B, a figure that "appears to exclude the huge infrastructure projects around Olympic venues" (R-SPORT, 1/16). RIA NOVOSTI reported Russian Railways President Vladimir Yakunin said that Kasper "should be taken to court over the comments." Yakunin: "Did [Kasper] take part in this theft? Then he should be judged. If he has received some sort of materials proving it is true, then put him on the stand, but otherwise you are a slanderer and you need to be judged according to the law" (RIA NOVOSTI, 1/16).