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Russian Olympic Head Downplays Georgian Call For Sochi Boycott

Marat Bariev, executive director of the Russian Olympic Committee (file photo)
Marat Bariev, executive director of the Russian Olympic Committee (file photo)
The head of the Russian Olympic Committee says Georgia's call for a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in the Russian Black Sea city of Sochi will fail, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reports.

Russian Olympic Committee Executive Director Marat Bariev told RFE/RL from Belgrade, where he is participating in an assembly of European Olympic Committees, that he doubts other countries will support the Georgian initiative.

He said "almost none" of the more than 40 countries participating in the meeting in Belgrade support the Georgian initiative.

"The Olympics is always about peace," Bariev said. "The position of the Georgian authorities is different. They are trying to go against the people's will. They have no support here, and we don't worry about [the call for a boycott]. I think the Georgian authorities are making a move against themselves. They will have no support."

Speaking in Prague last week, Georgian Deputy Prime Minister Giorgi Baramidze said it is "immoral" for a country that is occupying its neighbor's territory to host an event such as the Olympics just 10 kilometers away from the occupied territory. He was referring to the breakaway Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which Moscow entered during the brief conflict in 2008 and now recognizes as independent states.

Baramidze added that "holding the Olympics in Sochi is not only immoral, but also dangerous" in light of the unstable situation in the North Caucasus.

In February 2007, after Georgia's bid to host the 2014 Winter Olympics failed, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili expressed support for the choice of Sochi as the venue.

Bariev noted that despite Georgia's call for a boycott of the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia voted on November 27 in favor of Georgia as the venue for the European Youth Olympic Festival in summer 2015.