Putin keeps IOC 'very happy'
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[February 17, 2014]
By Karolos Grohmann
SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) — Russian
President Vladimir Putin seems to be everywhere at the Sochi Olympics
these days, whether it is the competition venues, team headquarters or
even posing for pictures with sports fans and volunteers.
The leader's presence at Russia's first Winter Olympics was
always going to be top news given the country's human rights record,
its frosty ties with the United States and the controversial
anti-gay propaganda law.
And with his official plane parked on a runway just a stone's throw
from the venues and visible from the nearby streets, Putin is
relishing the spotlight.
Put has attended ice hockey, biathlon and figure skating events and
as far as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is concerned,
his frequent appearances are doing the Games only good.
"He is clearly a big sports fan which adds to that (presence)," IOC
spokesman Mark Adams told reporters on Monday. "It is good to have
the support of the head of state of the country and we are very
happy for his support."
Ever since Sochi was surprisingly awarded the Olympics in 2007
following a powerful address by Putin himself to IOC members at
their session in Guatemala, the Games at the Black Sea resort have
been viewed with suspicion.
Organizers had to build every venue from scratch and the
announcement that total investment would exceed $50 billion
triggered further negative headlines.
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Putin had personally overseen preparations, publicly sacked top
officials and wooed the IOC during its inspection visits over the
For him the Games were more important as a political and diplomatic
tool it seemed than a purely sporting event.
Adams said he could only compare his presence in Sochi anecdotally
with the London 2012 Games where both Queen Elizabeth and Prime
Minister David Cameron put in appearances.
These were, however, far more infrequent than the Russian leader's.
So were Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's at the 2010
Vancouver Olympics and while Silvio Berlusconi, at the time Italian
Prime Minister, was hardly to be seen at the 2006 Turin winter
"Putin is at the top. The Sochi Games are his Games," a senior
Russian sports official told Reuters on condition of anonymity. "He
is in complete control."
(Editing by Mitch Phillips)
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