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IOC defends use of rehearsal footage in ceremony

SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Olympic officials are defending the use of TV rehearsal footage to cover up a glitch in Sochi's opening ceremony and the choice of a final torchbearer who had posted a racially offensive tweet about President Barack Obama.

Friday night's ceremony hit a bump when only four —instead of five — illuminated floating rings linked up to form the Olympic symbol in the early section of the show. The five were supposed to join together and erupt in fireworks. But one never expanded, and the pyrotechnics never went off.

While the 40,000 spectators in the stadium saw the glitch, Russian state television cut away to air the recorded images showing all five rings joining together and fireworks exploding. "Some people decided to take some other footage and some not," International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams told a news conference Saturday. "It's a very technical Olympic ceremony, very well organized. But the show itself was a fantastic one. I don't see what the problem is, to be honest."

Adams said the show "was even better on television." IOC and Sochi officials also defended Irina Rodnina, the three-time figure skating gold medalist who lit the cauldron with hockey great Vladislav Tretiak at the close of the torch relay.

A tweet of Rodnina's from last year drew new attention on social media on Friday. The image superimposed an image of a banana in front of a picture of Obama and wife Michelle. Rodnina didn't explain the tweet at the time and later took down the photo, but later defended it with another tweet, saying "Freedom of speech is freedom!"

"Irina Rodnina is one of the most respected" Olympic athletes in the world, Sochi organizing chief Dmitry Chernyshenko said. "I want to stress that Olympics is not about politics. Any political talks and discussions are inappropriate for the Olympic Games."

Adams said the IOC does not choose the torchbearers but he defended Rodnina's credentials. "She was chosen for what she's done in sport," Adams said. "She's a triple gold medalist in skating and she's done a great deal of work for sport and that's what she was chosen for."

Rodnina, considered one of the greatest female figure skaters of all time, won gold medals in the pairs event at the 1972, 1976 and 1980 Olympics. She also won 10 world pairs titles in a row, matching the great Sonja Henie.

Rodnina, who lived in the United States for many years, now has a seat in parliament as a member of Vladimir Putin's United Russia party. Chernyshenko, meanwhile, said no threats were posed by Friday's attempted hijacking of a Turkey-bound flight to Sochi by a Ukrainian man.

The plane, carrying 110 passengers, landed in Istanbul and the man was detained after a four-hour standoff. The man claimed he had a bomb, but no bomb was found. "We were worried about this incident," Chernyshenko said. "There were not any threats and I know that the Ukraine and Turkish authorities took the steps to fix this hooligan's incident."

The Interfax news agency cited the Ukrainian Security Service, the country's main security agency, as saying the passenger was in a state of severe alcohol intoxication.

AP Sports Writer Jon Krawczynski contributed to this report.

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