2014 Winter Games officials questioned on fighting
BEIJING (AP) The vodka was on ice to celebrate the next two hosts of the Winter Olympics - Vancouver in 2010 and Sochi, Russia, after that. But a torrential rain soaked many of the guests, and talk turned to this weekend's deadly violence in southern Russia, on the doorstep of the site of the 2014 Winter Games.
The fighting between Russia and Georgia "has nothing to do with the preparation of the games," Sochi Olympic organizing committee chief Dmitry Chernyshenko said Sunday in his first public comments on the situation.
"It's very sad what's going on in the world and we share the concern of the IOC, but I would refer to the politicians for that," Chernyshenko added. "But personally I do believe that the Olympics is something that can make things happen, and I'm sure the Olympic values and Olympic ideals will be considered."
Airstrikes and shelling by Russia and Georgia has left hundreds dead in South Ossetia, a breakaway region in Georgia. The Russian resort of Sochi is a few hundred miles from the western border of Georgia.
"It's a bit of concern," said former skier Jean-Claude Killy, leader of an International Olympic Committee commission on Sochi.
On Sunday, overwhelmed Georgian troops retreated from South Ossetia and their government pressed for a truce. Russia had no immediate comment on a cease-fire the Georgians were observing.
"It is a national problem, and the IOC is not supposed to comment on situations like this. We just hope that it's going to be solved fast, and it seems they made progress today. We hope for the best," Killy told The Associated Press.
Killy and Chernyshenko had gathered at Russia House, the headquarters of the Russian Olympic team on the banks of Hou Hai, a small manmade lake in central Beijing.
As a muggy Beijing evening unleashed a thunderstorm, the drenched party guests filed past huge blocks of slowly melting ice that served as a makeshift bar for shotglasses of vodka. Among the sports stars were NHL player Alex Ovechkin and Canadian Beckie Scott, Canada's two-time Olympic medalist. A barefoot boy slapped a hockey puck toward a net on a miniature plastic hockey rink.
"This is a wonderful opportunity for two organizing committees who have the same common interests ... to celebrate a little bit the time we have together in Beijing," said John Furlong, chief executive of the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee. "This is about our friendship, our partnership, our willingness to work together for the good of the Olympic movement."
Last week, Furlong told the IOC all but three venues in Vancouver will be completed by the end of this year, and the IOC told the Sochi officials that they have much work to do. Killy said Sochi must build 70 percent to 80 percent of its venues.
"It's a major task ahead of them," Killy said. "They, in my opinion, are not late (but) they do not have one single day to lose or to waste."
Chernyshenko has said Russia intends to complete construction by the end of 2012.
AP Sports Writer Stephen Wilson contributed to this story.