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  • Sochi Says Border Tensions Not Olympic Issue


    Sochi 2014 president Dmitry Chernyshenko says the conflict between Russia and Georgia won't spillover to the Games. (Getty)
    (ATR) Sochi 2014 organizers are resolute that ongoing tensions between Russia and Georgia will not impact Olympic preparations in the Black Sea resort.

    "Olympic preparations are not affected," says Sochi 2014 president Dmitry Chernyshenko in comments Friday released through Anna Kharnas, head of communications for Sochi 2014.

    "Our ambitious, but realistic project is on track, as chairman of the IOC Coordination Commission for Sochi 2014, Jean-Claude Killy, confirmed to the IOC Session in Beijing and nothing has changed," says Chernyshenko.

    He said construction on all venues would be underway by the end of 2009 and completed in time for test events to be staged by the end of 2012.

    "The safety and security of the Olympic Family remains guaranteed," ssays Chernyshenko.

    His comments came as the conflict entered a new phase with Georgia severing diplomatic ties with Russia in response to the Kremlin’s decision to formally recognize the independence of Georgia’s two breakaway regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

    Chernyshenko issued similar reassurances to ATR during the Beijing Olympics when the five-day war between Russia and Georgia over South Ossetia broke out.

    He insisted Russia’s military action with Georgia would not complicate preparations in the Winter Olympics city.

    "Absolutely not. It has nothing to do with our preparations and infrastructure delivery," he said. "We will monitor the situation and keep in close contact with the IOC."

    Describing it as a "very sad issue", he offered reassurances that the Black Sea resort would be a safe and secure city; Sochi is about 40 kilometers from the breakaway Abkhazia province of western Georgia.

    "Russia is capable of protecting our borders and to provide the highest level of security in the region of the Games," Chernyshenko said.

    Meanwhile, Sochi 2014 has criticized Georgia's former president Eduard Shevardnadze after he attacked Russia’s decision to recognize the two breakaway regions of Georgia and called for a boycott of the Games.

    He suggested the move would "encourage separatist
    Jean Claude Killy watches Sochi developments for the IOC as chair of the coordination commission. (Getty)
    movements within ethnically diverse Russia", creating further instability in the region.

    Shevardnadze backed calls by two U.S. lawmakers for the IOC to punish Russia for its military action in Georgia by stripping Sochi of the 2014 Winter Olympics, or to boycott the Games if they go ahead.

    "Due to this military conflict, the reasons for a boycott are now more than ever," Shevardnadze said in remarks published by a Japanese newspaper.

    Sochi 2014 organizers condemned the Shevernadze comments.

    "It is always disappointing when someone tries to politicize the Olympic Games," Kharnas said.

    "Sochi 2014 joins the IOC in recognizing that the Olympic Games are about
    Construction at Roza Khutor, one of the alpine venues for Sochi 2014. (Getty)
    sport, not politics."

    "We are building a Games full of brand-new venues custom-made for the Olympic Movement," she said, adding that 143 million people in the world's largest winter sports nation are passionate about the Games coming to Sochi.

    Despite calls for a boycott, there is plenty of support for Sochi from the host nation of this month’s Olympics.

    China’s president Hu Jintao told his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev that his country would continue to support the decision to stage the 2014 Games in Sochi.

    "We are ready to develop further cooperation with Russia on the organization of the Olympic Games," Hu was quoted as saying by Russian media. He met with Medvedev as regional leaders gathered in Tajikistan for a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

    After spreading the message about their 2014 Olympic plans in Beijing, Sochi organizers are now preparing to make the most of the IOC Observer Program at the Paralympic Games.

    "We will be paying very close attention to all elements of Chinese preparations to ensure the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games is not only well-organized, technically excellent and positive for the environment, but also helps to raise awareness and understanding of the 10 million people in Russia living with disabilities," said Kharnas.

    Written by Mark Bisson.

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