IOC President Thomas Bach has encouraged Olympic athletes wishing to make any political statement or protest "to speak out, rather than upstage a medal presentation" at the Sochi Olympics, according to Jacquelin Magnay of THE AUSTRALIAN. Bach told reporters that the IOC "would not gag athletes' rights to speak out," but the committee "would take action" if any protest affected Games competitions or the medal presentation podium. Bach: "It is absolutely very clear the Games cannot be used as a stage for political demonstrations, no matter how good the cause may be. If so, the IOC will take individual decisions (about punishment). On the other hand, athletes enjoy the freedom of speech. In a press conference if they want to make a political statement they are absolutely free to do so." Bach "also sought to allay increasing security fears," saying that IOC officials were on the ground in Sochi "meeting daily with the organising committee and political authorities." He said that the presence of many military in the area "wouldn't detract from the sporting spectacle, but would help the athletes and visitors feel secure" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 1/28). Asked whether he was urging athletes to make their point at news conferences rather than the medals podium, Bach said: "If you are drawing this conclusion I would not say anything against it" (REUTERS, 1/27).
SECURITY THREATS: In London, Heather Saul reported U.K. officials are warning more terrorist attacks are “very likely to occur” in Russia either before or during the Winter Olympics. A threat assessment "has named a Caucasus group, Imarat Kavkaz (IK) as causing the main danger." However, the document also questions whether the group is "capable of targeting the event within such a narrow time frame." It also noted that the IK "has not attacked non-Russian interests previously and focuses its fight on Russia, not the West" (INDEPENDENT, 1/27).
HOMOSEXUALS 'WELCOME': In L.A., Nick Holdsworth reported Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov said in a TV interview that there are "no gays" living in his city, emphasizing that gay visitors are welcome at the Games as long as they "respect the law." Pakhomov, a Kremlin loyalist and member of ruling party United Russia, told the BBC that gay visitors to Sochi were welcome as long as they did not "impose their habits on others" (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 1/27).
Rio 2016 Olympic Organizing Committee CEO Sidney Levy said that the projected 30B reais ($12.5B) Games "are a chance to show that the country can run a major project without scandal," according to Tariq Panja of BLOOMBERG. Levy took over Rio’s organizing committee in January '13, and said that preparation for the event "can rebuild trust" between the country and its business elites by proving things can be done “without corruption.” Levy: “The time has come for the Brazilian people to understand and to believe that there are people in Brazil skilled enough to raise and spend 7 billion reais in a transparent way. They think it’s all mixed up with friends of him, friends of so-and-so. The money behind the table, these guys are all going to be rich at the end. They really think that. So we’re here to prove the opposite.” Forbes in November estimated the cost of corruption in Brazil in '13 could be as high as $53B, and President Dilma Rousseff "has fired several ministers over allegations of graft." Levy said the public sentiment "is understandable." Levy: "In so many areas Brazil has gone first world. So we cannot tolerate that in so many other areas Brazil is still third world. We cannot agree with that. We have to go against that" (BLOOMBERG, 1/26).
An interactive website launched Monday by anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny "paints a vivid picture of the suspected cost overruns and conflicts of interest at the Sochi Winter Olympics," according to Nataliya Vasilyeva of the AP. Navalny claims that Russia "spent twice as much as necessary" to build at least 10 of the Olympic venues -- including the Bolshoi Ice Palace, the Fisht Stadium for the Opening/Closing Ceremonies and the speed-skating arena. Navalny's new website -- Sochi.FBK.info -- "combines data gathered during his own investigations along with media reports and other activists' analysis." Using colorful graphics, the website "makes a wide range of data accessible in English and Russian." Navalny, who finished second in Moscow's mayoral election last year, wrote, "Athletes are not the only people who compete in Sochi. Officials and businessmen also took part in the Games and turned them into a source of income" (AP, 1/27). REUTERS' Thomas Grove reported Navalny's report, "which won little attention in Russia's tightly controlled media, also contradicted government statements that private companies had financed more than half of the investment in Sochi." It said that funds channelled through state-controlled companies "had been portrayed as private, rather than public investment and that the private sector had really put in less than 4 percent of the overall cost." The report said that "under international accounting standards such investments would be considered state money." The report stated, "In their statements, officials referred to investments of Gazprom, Sberbank, Russian Railways and other government-affiliated entities as private investments" (REUTERS, 1/27).
Japan’s barriers to foreign labor are "showing signs of cracking" as preparations for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics "threaten to exacerbate the worst shortage of construction workers in almost 20 years," according to Andy Sharp of BLOOMBERG. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said last week that curbs on visas for foreign blue-collar workers "may be loosened." More than 25,000 laborers "will be needed" for stadiums, arenas and other Games facilities, Tokyo’s government estimates, adding to demand from earthquake and tsunami rebuilding. Japan’s shrinking population may pressure PM Shinzo Abe "to open the door wider to workers from abroad as part of his drive to sustain a revival of the world’s third-biggest economy." JPMorgan Chase Senior Economist Masamichi Adachi said, "Foreign workers are needed to boost potential economic growth. However, ordinary Japanese people are afraid that foreign workers will take their jobs and cause wages to fall" (BLOOMBERG, 1/27).
The European Olympic Committees completed the restructuring of its digital platforms Monday, launching a new website (www.eurolympic.org/index.php/en/). The site includes an intranet facility where the 49 NOCs can download documents and carry out online accreditation for EOC meetings (EOC). ... Dominica will be represented at the Sochi Olympics. U.S.-based Gary di Silvestri and his Italian-born wife, Angelica Morrone di Silvestri, "have confirmed that they will represent Dominica at the Games." The di Silvestris "gained Dominican citizenship through their philanthropic activities in Dominica and other Caribbean islands" (CMC, 1/26).