Putin says Sochi Games 'opened Russia's soul'

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[February 25, 2014]  MOSCOW (Reuters)  The Sochi Olympics "opened Russia's soul" to the world and wrong-footed critics of the host country, President Vladimir Putin said in remarks broadcast on Tuesday.

Taking stock after Russia topped the medals table and avoided major security problems at its first post-Soviet Games, Putin said constructive criticism from the International Olympic Committee had helped make Sochi 2014 a success.

But there were other critics whose jabs were motivated by "the competitive struggle in international politics, maybe even geopolitics".

"They used the Olympic project to achieve their own aims in the area of anti-Russian propaganda," he said.

"Because when a strong competitor emerges  in this case Russia  some grow worried, some don't like it, some fear it, not understanding how deeply Russian society has changed," Putin said in a state TV interview, strolling in the sun in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi.

The buildup to the Olympics was overshadowed by threats of militant violence, an outcry over an "anti-gay propaganda" law, allegations of corruption, complaints about the high cost of traveling to Sochi and tweets about slapdash hotels.

Criticism abated as the Games progressed.

"The Olympics were very important for us, because it seems to me ... that they not only opened Russia's door but opened Russia's soul, the soul of our nation  so that people looked and saw that there is nothing to fear," Putin said.

(Writing by Steve Gutterman; editing by Robert Woodward)

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