IOC tours Games village, remembers Volgograd victims

Tue Feb 4, 2014 6:59am EST
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By Karolos Grohmann

SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach paid tribute to victims of the recent bombing in Volgograd during a tour of the Sochi Games athletes village on Tuesday.

Bach, who was elected head of the IOC in September, also said people of all 'perspectives' were welcome at the Olympics.

Russia triggered criticism and boycott calls for the Games when it banned spreading "gay propaganda" to children in June. Critics have denounced the law as discriminatory and said it was a curb on rights to free speech and assembly.

Russia is gearing up for its first winter Olympics, which start on February 7.

"We remember and grieve for the innocent victims of conflict and especially the recent victims of Volgograd," Bach said at the athletes compound, with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak and top IOC officials looking on.

The December bombings, which killed 34 people, were aimed at derailing the Olympics, on which President Vladimir Putin has staked his and his country's reputation.

The Games at the Black Sea resort, which have become the most expensive at more than $50 billion, are being held under tight security as Islamic militants in the nearby north Caucasus battle for independence from Russia.

One of their leaders had urged fighters to stop the Games from taking place.   Continued...

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach smiles as Russia's ice hockey player Iya Gavrilova (L) and U.S speed skater Anna Ringsred (R) introduce themselves during a visit in the Coastal Cluster Olympic Village in Sochi, February 4, 2014. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard