SOCHI, Russia (AP) — The balmy weather in Sochi poses no "major risk" to the Olympics, for now, with no need to bring in stored snow at the mountain venues, IOC President Thomas Bach said Thursday in an interview with The Associated Press.
Spring-like temperatures covered Sochi for a second straight day, reaching highs of 15 C (59 F) both along the coast and in the mountains, raising concerns over slushy snow and ice. Similar conditions are forecast for Friday.
Sochi organizers have stored tons of snow from the previous winter, but Bach said there was no need to turn to the contingency plan yet. "The situation so far is under control," Bach said. "The organizing committee together with the international federations are working very hard. There is still storage of snow. So far it is going well."
"There is still enough snow available," he added. "At this point in time, we don't see a major risk." The International Olympic Committee leader recalled even hotter conditions at the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary.
"I remember going around in the last days of the games in a T-shirt," he said. "It was about 25 degrees Celsius (77 F)." Bach, meanwhile, expressed sympathy for an Olympic track worker who was struck by a bobsled and hospitalized with two broken legs and a possible concussion.
The worker was hit by a forerunning sled in the braking area near the finish line at the Sanki Sliding Center, just before the start of Thursday's two-man bobsled training. "We still do not know why he was in this zone and exactly what happened," Bach said. "We are following up on this matter."
The Sochi track was designed to be safer following the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumarishtavili in an accident hours before the opening ceremony of the Vancouver Games four years ago. Bach praised the security operations put in place by Russia, which has deployed a force of more than 40,000 police and military personnel to guard the Olympics. The leadup to the games was dominated by concerns over threats of attacks by Islamic militants form the North Caucasus.
"It is very professional how the Russian authorities are dealing with the issue of security," Bach said. "There is a lot of security but the parameters of security are far from the main venues. "It is very well controlled. The venues during the night are like a fortress. The security forces are acting in an extremely friendly way so the Olympic atmosphere is not harmed at all."
Bach said the overall atmosphere in Sochi has been "fantastic," despite complaints of empty seats and lack of enthusiasm at some venues. "What counts for me is the perception by the athletes," he said. "At the cross-country, many were telling me along the track they would never have expected so many people being here."
Bach also welcomed the return of India to the Olympic fold after a 15-month suspension. The IOC reinstated India on Tuesday after its national Olympic body held elections under rules barring corruption-tainted officials from running.
India's three athletes marched into the opening ceremony last week as "independent athletes" under the Olympic flag. Shiva Keshavan has since competed in luge, but two other athletes — cross-country skier Nadeem Iqbal and slalom skier Hamanshu Thakur — can now represent their country.
"It's late, but never too late," Bach said. "I feel happy for the athletes because for two of the three athletes there is now the opportunity to compete under the flag of India, to be the team of India. I'm sure this will give them a great boost. I'm just happy for the athletes."
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