By Tom Degun at the Peace and Sport International Forum in Sochi

Vitaly MutkoOctober 31 - Vitaly Mutko, Minister of Sport for Russia, has admitted that while there are "concerns and challenges" with the preparations for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, he is confident that the Games will be delivered successfully.

Earlier this month, Sochi 2014 received a clean bill of health from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Coordination Commission, with chairman Jean-Claude Killy of France saying he was "impressed with the advances made" by the Black Sea coast resort.

But despite the praise, Mutko (pictured top, centre) admits there is still work to be done to ensure the competition goes well.

"The IOC assessment made it clear that we are on time, on schedule and that there are no major warning signals in our preparations for Sochi 2014," Mutko said at a press conference here.

"But that doesn't mean that we have no concerns and challenges.

"We do have concerns and we do have challenges."

"One of the obvious challenges is that a lot of the venues are still construction sites and we need to make sure we continue working at pace to have these ready for the next test events.

"We have nearly 50 different test events this season alone to check the venues and surrounding infrastructure.

"They will be vital in our learning process.

"The test events will be able to flag up any major problems that have so that we can fix them and ensure that the Winter Olympics and Paralympics are a success.

"So we cannot yet be confident and only through the joint effort of all the Games partners can we fill all the gaps we have."

Sochi constructionConstruction for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics and Paralympics is continuing at pace

The Minister of Sport also highlighted the performance of the Russian team as key to the success of the Games, after their Winter Olympians completely flopped at Vancouver 2010.

Despite huge investment, Russia claimed just 15 medals, three of which were gold, to finish 11th on the medal table in their worst result since the breakup of the Soviet Union.

There was a much stronger performance for Russia Paralympians, who finished second on the medal table with 38 medals and 12 golds, but the Olympic failure saw then President Dmitry Medvedev demand an audit to look into the failure, which cited dozens of examples of money being wasted.

The Russian winter sports system has since been completely revamped and Mutko is hopeful it will breed success.

president-medvedevRussia’s former President and current Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev demanded an audit into the country’s failure at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics

"We have always been open in Russia and I admit that we have challenges with the team after Vancouver," he said.

"But we are at home in Sochi and we must do better.

"I think we can use that home advantage because from next year, our athletes will be able to train in the Olympic venues and get used to them.

"We have not always had the opportunity to get into the venues when we are abroad so that will be a big advantage.

"But we won't fully be sure of our how strong our team s for Sochi until next year when they have competed in all the big international competitions.

"We will set our medal goals next spring at the end of the 2012-2013 winter season and tell Russian citizens honestly what we want from this national squad.

"We are optimistic that they will be able to perform well at home but we are obviously a little concerned as well because the host nation must perform well for a successful Games."

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