SOCHI, Russia (AP) — A record number of world dignitaries are coming to the Sochi Olympics, triple the amount that attended the 2010 Vancouver Games, Russian organizers said Thursday on the eve of the opening ceremony.
Dmitry Chernyshenko, head of the Sochi organizing committee, told the IOC that 65 heads of state and government and international organizations are expected to attend Russia's first Winter Olympics.
"This is a record for Winter Games, three times the number in Vancouver," he said in his final update to the International Olympic Committee general assembly.
The IOC said Wednesday it was aware of 44 world leaders coming to the games. Chernyshenko's figures could be higher because of the inclusion of international organizations.
A number of top world leaders are skipping the games, however. They include President Barack Obama, French President Francois Hollande, British Prime Minister David Cameron and German President Joachim Gauck.
The Olympics come amid Western criticism of Russia's record on human rights and its law banning gay "propaganda" among minors.
Sochi organizers have declined to provide the names of the leaders coming to the opening ceremony or the countries they represent.
But several were present at an IOC dinner Thursday night. Alongside Putin, they included U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, the leaders of China, Greece, Bulgaria, Lebanon, Morocco, Armenia, Finland, Greece, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Mongolia, Montenegro, Serbia, Tajikistan, and the monarchs of Monaco and Luxembourg.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who ran in the Olympic torch relay in Sochi, labeled as "nonsense" the talk of how many foreign leaders are coming to the games.
"No one has ever counted," he said, as quoted by Russian agency RIA Novosti. "They started counting when they decided that they should spoil things for Russia so that Russia would feel uncomfortable."
On Tuesday, IOC President Thomas Bach denounced politicians who used the Sochi Olympics for their own purposes "on the backs of the athletes," including leaders who publicly snubbed the games without having been invited.