Sochi Organizing Committee President Reaffirms That City Is Secure For Olympics
Sochi Olympic Organizing Committee President Dmitry Chernyshenko said on Wednesday that "Sochi is 'fully ready' and will deliver safe, friendly and well-run Games that defy the grim reports that have overshadowed preparations," according to the AP. Speaking on Russia's first Olympic Games, Chernyshenko said, "History will be made." With Sochi facing threats of terrorist attacks from insurgents from the North Caucasus, Chernyshenko said the city is the "most secure venue at the moment on the planet" and promised that tight security measures "will not detract from the atmosphere of the Games." Chernyshenko: "I can assure you that Sochi will be among the most security-friendly Games and all the procedures will be very gentle and smooth." Chernyshenko said the number of world leaders attending the ceremony would be "the highest in the history of the Winter Games." He "declined to give the number" (AP, 1/30). BLOOMBERG's Stepan Kravchenko reported Russian Olympic Committee President Alexander Zhukov "urged visitors to show tolerance for the measures in place to keep them safe." Zhukov: "The more security, the better it is." Control zones "are spread out to avoid creating lines." Zhukov: "The atmosphere isn’t much different from other Games, with two security cordons, maybe a need to take off your shoes, nothing unusual. Everyone understands these measures must be tolerated" (BLOOMBERG, 1/29).
SPEAKING OUT: In Sydney, Jacquelin Magnay reported Sochi Olympic officials "have warned that athletes will not be allowed to speak out about anything other than sport, except in a corralled speakers' corner kilometres away from the venues." Chernyshenko "contradicted" IOC President Thomas Bach and "denied athletes would be free to speak out at press conferences." The differences in the interpretation "has put the spotlight on the ongoing tension between the IOC and Russia" since President Vladimir Putin introduced a law banning the promotion of homosexuality to minors. Those divisions widened when Chernyshenko said that athletes could only talk about sport to the media and claimed if they wanted to talk about other issues they could do so only at "a speakers' corner." This "specially constructed protest zone is seven kilometres from the Olympic precinct in a town called Khosta" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 1/31).
SPECIAL PROTECTION: REUTERS' Julien Pretot reported French Olympic athletes "will be protected by French national police and gendarmerie special operations units in Sochi." Sports Minister Valerie Fourneyron said, "(Special operations units) GIGN (gendarmerie) and RAID (police) will be at the athletes' side, DGSE (external intelligence agency) will liaise with the Russian authorities" (REUTERS, 1/30).
FASHION POLICE: REUTERS' Belinda Goldsmith reported athletes heading to the Sochi Olympics "have been warned not to wear team kit with large logos promoting their country on their way to Russia due to security concerns." Britain has joined the U.S. in cautioning athletes and officials against wearing "overtly branded" clothing en route to Sochi where the athletes' village opens on Thursday. A British Olympic Association spokesperson said that its 56 athletes and 64 officials "were advised to travel in items from their 111-piece team kit with small, discrete logos." The spokesperson said, "While we have not received any information or advice suggesting an increase in the threat level, we are taking a common-sense approach in recommending that team members wear less overtly branded Team GB kit during their journey to Sochi" (REUTERS, 1/30).
INTERPOL STEPS IN: The AP reported Interpol said that it has agreed with the IOC to "step up policing at international sports events." The int'l police agency said the agreement will provide "enhanced collaboration" with the IOC on issues such as doping, match-fixing and illegal or irregular sports betting. The agreement also calls for Interpol "to provide additional support to to ensure the security of international matches and competitions" (AP, 1/30).