By David Gold

sochi 2014_merch_20-03-12March 20 - Sochi 2014 has signed an agreement with leading Russian retailers to sell licensed merchandise in stores across the country.

Sportmaster, Begemot Hypermarket and Uvenko Invest have become the official operators of Sochi 2014 retail sales, with goods available in more than 1,000 shops and offices across 70 regions.

Sports goods chain Sportmaster will open 300 departments in shops across Russia, while children's produce chain Begemot will create 400 departments for the official Sochi 2014 merchandise.

Uvenko will sell products in 400 vending machines in their sales offices.

The cheapest product is as little as $2 (£1.25/€1.5), giving everyone the chance to get their hands on official memorabilia.

Sochi 2014 President and chief executive Dmitry Chernyshenko took part in a signing ceremony with Sportmaster general director Leonid Strakhov, head of Begemot Sergei Kiselev and Uvenko general director Sergei Kornienko.

"Sochi 2014 licensed products will be available in more than 1000 shops throughout Russia," Chernyshenko said.

"Every Russian family will be able to own 'a part' of the Olympic Games and contribute to the first Winter Games in the history of our country."

Strakhov added: "The fact that Sportmaster has signed a licensing agreement with the Sochi 2014 Organising Committee and obtained the rights to become the official Sochi 2014 retail operator, represents a new milestone in our activities and will help to develop mass sport and a healthy lifestyle in Russia.

"We have no doubt that the Sochi 2014 licensed merchandise will prove to be a great success amongst Russians and visitors to the Games.

"We will do our best to make Sochi 2014 merchandise accessible and popular across all Russia."

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Kiselev commented: "It is very important to us that Begemot Hypermarket retail chain has been awarded the status of the official Sochi 2014 retail operator for children's merchandise.

"It is our mission to provide customers with high-quality, certified and affordable toys.

"By purchasing these toys, people will be able to feel that they are a part of the 2014 Games in Sochi – an event of great importance for our country."

Kornienko invoked the memories of the Summer Olympics in 1980, when he said: "In 1980 the whole country watched as Mishka the Olympic Bear was carried by balloons into the sky.

"Today, more than 30 years later the brand of the Moscow Olympic Games is still cherished and recognised.

"I am sure that the symbols of the Olympic winter Games in Sochi will become equally popular around the world.

"For Uvenko it is a great honour that the Sochi 2014 Organising Committee has entrusted us with helping to popularise the concept and the brand of the Games."

It is anticipated that total sales of Sochi 2014 products could break the $500 million (£314 million/€379 million) mark.

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