Leaders who don't attend Olympics snub IOC, not Russia – Lavrov
"This is stupidity and nonsense. As we have touched upon this issue, I should say that I don't remember any Olympics where such questions were asked. Nobody has ever made such calculations. People began to count the number of attendees to tarnish Russia's reputation, so that Russia would second-guess itself," Lavrov added.
"How many heads of states were present at the Olympics in Vancouver or London? Nobody has ever counted," Lavrov said. "We began to count, because people had begun to ask such questions. Today we can say that 44 heads of state will be present at the Olympic opening ceremony. Altogether, 60 heads of states will visit Sochi to watch the Olympics. So, you can draw your own conclusions".
"By the way, it is the IOC that invites heads of state and not the host country. That's why those who rejected the invitation, showed their attitude to the IOC and not to Russia," Sergey Lavrov said.
"We have no desire to send any messages to anyone. We want to have a festival, we want our country to receive guests for the largest sports competition in the world, which all athletes value above anything else. Everything else depends on the athletes. I am sure that you have felt in Sochi how much the residents of this city and all Russians who have come here are glad about what they will see after just one day. Everything is in the hands of our and other athletes who will present us with a fabulous festival," he concluded.
Russian President Vladimir Putin declared the 126th session of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) open in addressing guests at the ceremony on Tuesday. Putin said in his speech that the organization of the Olympic Games in Sochi, which only a few years ago was not ready to host such an event, shows that Russia is capable of achieving the most ambitious of goals.
The main events of the session itself will begin on Wednesday.
"We are grateful to the International Olympic Committee for the opportunity to host the White Olympics. We understand how difficult it was to grant the privilege to host the games to a city where only 10 or at the very most 15 percent of the necessary infrastructure had been ready at the time," Putin said.
The IOC believed in Russia's potential and Russian character, which does not fear difficulties, he said.
"Difficulties only consolidate us and provide a powerful incentive to change the situation and prove that Russia is capable of resolving any issues and successfully achieving the most ambitious of goals," he said.
As an example, Putin claimed that Sochi took only five years to build top-notch sports facilities and the necessary city infrastructure, which usually takes ten years. Everyone can see now how Sochi has been transformed in the past few years and be sure that Russia "is ready to make a contribution to the development of world sports," he said.
In preparing for the games, Russia has accumulated substantial knowledge, particularly concerning the promotion of the Olympic project, sports, and a healthy lifestyle, which it is willing to share with all members of the great Olympic family, Putin said.
The Russian leader mentioned "the most far-reaching media coverage in history of preparations for and organization of Olympic Games" and a "unique" Olympic torch relay.
International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach on Monday expressed confidence that sufficient security would be provided for participants and guests during the Sochi Winter Olympics and claimed that organizational expenditure for the Sochi Olympics did not exceed that for the last games.
Bach told a news conference in Sochi that the IOC had complete confidence in security measures taken by the Russian authorities. He also said the Olympics are not sites for political demonstrations and are sporting events pure and simple.
He claimed that organizational spending on the Sochi Olympics did not exceed what had been put into the previous games.
However, he said, the overall cost of the games was hard to estimate because Sochi and its region had been revamped completely. He expressed confidence that the local population would enjoy the fruits of Olympic investments for many years.
Voice of Russia, Interfax, RIA,