Winter Olympics: Putin says he chose Sochi site

SOCHI (AFP) - Russian President Vladimir Putin revealed that he personally selected the site of the Sochi Olympic Games which open in the southern resort in four days.

He made the comment in a highly reverential documentary made by Russian state television, excerpts of which were broadcast late on Sunday night and which will be shown in full after the Games opening ceremony on Feb 7.

He also claimed that International Olympic Committee (IOC) members had backed Russia's 2007 bid to host the Games as they supported "today's Russia".

"It is particularly nice for me to see what is happening here as I chose this place personally," he said immodestly as the documentary showed him skiing down the slopes at the Olympic alpine centre of Krasnaya Polyana.

"In 2001 or 2002 I came in in my little UAZ (Russian jeep) and we went around here, came out at this river and I said 'let's begin here'," said Mr Putin, wearing a jacket adorned with his name V.V. Putin.

In the film, inexplicably titled The Philosophy Of The Soft Way, he also recalled the bidding process that led in 2007 to Russia being granted the right to host the Games in Sochi.

He has personally spearheaded both the bid and organising of the Winter Games and few Olympics after World War II have been so linked with the name of one individual.

He said that "not just one but many" IOC members after hearing the various bids said they would support Russia because "we support today's Russia and we want to support her. We need such a country".

He said that the IOC had also seen that in Russia the Olympic movement enjoys genuine support among the population and this was also a "very decisive factor".

He said that Russia as a country "has no competitors". But he added: "Russia has just one competitor - herself."

The Winter Olympics will be closely scrutinised around the world as a test of Russia's ability to hold a major events amid concerns that security and human rights controversies could overshadow the sporting competition.

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