IOC chief says Russia has 'delivered on promises'
A person walk by the Olympic Rings prior to the Sochi 2014 Winter Games at the Olympic Park in Sochi on January 31, 2014 - by Joe Scarnici
The debates over a litany of issues in the run up to the Games such as gay rights and the pressure on Russian civil society were a welcome part of the discussions that accompany any Games, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach told AFP in an interview.
He said that it was not the IOC's job to act as a "world government" to solve the problems of a country but more to send a message of tolerance in line with the Olympic Charter.
Just four days remain before the opening ceremony of the Games, a project spearheaded by President Vladimir Putin that has become one of the most controversial Olympics in living memory.
Bach brushed off criticism from some early arrivals at the Olympics complex that some accommodation facilities appeared far from ready with workers clearly working flat out to finish them on time.
"We can say the Russians have delivered on their promises," he told AFP, saying the Games would for the first time leave Russia with world class winter sports infrastructure.
He said a last minute rush to finish facilities was perfectly normal and all Games were in some way a "race against the clock".
"We know this from previous Games -- organising the Olympic Games is such a complex project, there will always be some details that need the last finishing touches."
"Every Olympics is a race against the clock," he said. "This is why the Games are used by the host city as a catalyst for transformation" that in normal times would take much longer to make.
'The IOC can't solve all the problems'
Meanwhile, Bach was untroubled by the controversies that have shadowed the run-up to the Games, including the furore over Russia's "gay propaganda law" and allegations of corruption in the tender and construction of Olympic sites.
He said it was positive that such discussions had taken place. He said that "when something came up, we took it up with the organisers" but did not specify what issues had been raised specifically.
Bach said: "These kind of discussions show the relevance of the Olympic Games. It shows how much interest there is in the world.
"The Games turn a focus on the country and we appreciate these kinds of discussions."
He said that the obligation of the IOC was to make sure that "the Olympic charter is applied in the Olympic Games."
And he said there were personal assurances from President Vladimir Putin that this would be the case.
"In this respect we have all the assurances from the president of the Russian federation and the government," said Bach who assumed the presidency of the IOC in September.
Bach complained that people often misunderstood the position of the IOC, which does not have the power to act like a government or international political organisation.
"The IOC is not a world government that can impose measures on a sovereign state," he explained.
"People expect that the IOC can solve all the problems of a country... We have no mandate for this."
The controversies surrounding the Olympics give "us the opportunity to make clear what the IOC's position is. What our possibilities are and what our limits are."
"Our message is to send the message of a free society, without discrimination, to the world. I hope the world will understand this message."
Bach meanwhile confirmed that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon would be attending an IOC session on Sochi this week as well as the Games themselves.
He expressed hope that Ban would provide "inspiration" over how to strengthen the bonds between the United Nations and IOC.