Bach backs Russia on security for Sochi Olympics

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 27, 2014 at 10:08 am •  Published: January 27, 2014
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LONDON (AP) — IOC President Thomas Bach defended the choice of Sochi as host of the Winter Olympics on Monday and said he's "sleeping very well" despite the terror threat hanging over the games.

Bach reiterated his confidence that Russia will provide "safe and secure" games without taking away from a festive Olympic atmosphere.

Russia is mounting a massive security operation for the games, which open Feb. 7 amid threats of attacks from Muslim insurgents from the North Caucasus region.

"We have full confidence in the host country and we also know that Russia and the Russian (security) services are working closely with different international services in order to ensure that all the participants and spectators in the games can feel safe and secure," Bach said in a conference call with reporters.

On a separate issue, Bach repeated that Russia has promised that athletes and spectators will not face any discrimination based on sexual orientation. Russia enacted a law last year banning gay "propaganda" among minors.

Bach said athletes are free to speak out on any political issues at news conferences at the games, but are prohibited from doing so on the medal podium or other Olympic sites.

"It's very clear that the games cannot be used as a stage for political demonstrations," he said. "The IOC will take, if necessary, individual decisions based on the individual case. On the other hand, the athletes, of course, enjoy the freedom of speech. So, if in a press conference they want to make a political statement, then they are absolutely free to do so."

More than 50,000 police and military personnel are being deployed to guard Russia's first Winter Games. An Islamic militant group in Dagestan claimed responsibility for two suicide bombings that killed 34 people in late December in Volgograd and threatened to attack the games in Sochi.

Russian security officials have been hunting for three potential female suicide bombers, one of whom is believed to be in Sochi itself.

Bach said the International Olympic Committee remains in constant contact with Russia about the security measures.