October 28 - Russian President Vladimir Putin has promised new International Olympic Committee (IOC) chief Thomas Bach that athletes and officials at Sochi 2014 will be welcome regardless of their race or sexual orientation.
The introduction in Russia of laws banning "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors" has overshadowed the build-up to the first Winter Games to be held in Russia.
Last week Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure claimed black footballers could refuse to go to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in the country after he was subjected to monkey chants during a Champions League game against CSKA Moscow.
But Putin has pledged to Bach that all athletes and spectators in Sochi will be treated with respect.
"I have assured Mr President [Bach] that we will do our best, and our athletes and fans will do their best too, so that both participants and guests feel themselves comfortable regardless of their ethnicity, race or sexual orientation," said Putin.
Bach is visiting Sochi for the first time since being elected to replace Jacques Rogge as President of the IOC last month.
Bach, who will attend the IOC World Conference on Sport and the Environment, which is due to start on Wednesday (October 30), made no reference to the issue of Russia's anti-gay laws.
"We are fully confident that the Games will be on a magnificent level," he said.
"Sochi and the whole region completed a very big, successful development journey and we have been deeply impressed with this path.
"The IOC is very satisfied with how preparations for the Games are going."
Putin expressed his satisfaction that Sochi were on track to complete the final preparations in time for the opening of the Olympics on February 7.
"Now that the overwhelming majority of sites are almost ready, there's a final push left, we need to accomplish this final milestone," he said.
"We need to prepare everything once and for all."
Bach also expressed his hope that Russia's team would be successful during the Games.
"When the Olympic Flame will be burning at the Olympic Stadium, it is up to you, because the success of Olympic Games also very much depends on the success of the home team," he told Putin.
"I hope that very soon, I will once again have the chance to meet [Putin] in Sochi and to personally award gold medals to your athletes."
Russia has invested heavily in preparing its team for Sochi 2014 following its poor performance at Vancouver in 2010 when they finished only 11th in the medals table, the first time they had not come among the top five nations since they started competing as a separate country at Lillehammer in 1994.
"Obviously, an honourable and successful result by our athletes is no less important that the impeccable staging and preparations for the competition itself," said Putin.
"Great sports achievements are not a question of prestige and ambitions to us - the link between records in sports and [promoting] popular sports are evident."
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