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Sochi Olympics chief promises safety (and snow) at Games

Despite concerns about political and social tensions, high costs and weather, the president of the Olympic Organizing Committee says Sochi will be ready to welcome the world to the 22nd Winter Games in February. As a Russian spacecraft carried the Olympic torch to the International Space Station, Dmitry Chernyshenko spoke to Matt Lauer on TODAY Thursday to address concerns about the host city on Russia’s Black Sea coast.

As with any large-scale international event, security will be tight at the Games. But there may be added apprehension because Sochi is close to Russia’s North Caucasus region, recently a hotbed for Muslim extremists.

Today
The Olympic Village under construction in Sochi.

Still, Chernyshenko says Sochi can handle the task. “Right from the beginning we established very good cooperation between Russian and American securities and they exchanged intelligence, and I know that everyone is confident that Russia is able to provide this, ” he said.

Another security factor: There have been protests and calls for an Olympic boycott after Russia introduced a law banning “homosexual propaganda” among children. Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to diffuse tensions last week by assuring the International Olympic Committee that Russia is doing everything to make sure all participants and guests feel comfortable in Sochi. 

Chernyshenko reiterated Putin's assurances Thursday. “My president already several times expressed the guarantees on behalf of the state leaders that there will be no discrimination whether by race, religion, or sexual orientation. We organizers keep social inclusivity as a key of the Games.” 

Asked how Russian authorities will handle possible gay rights protests, Chernyshenko pointed out that in accordance with Olympic charter rules, any propaganda or any demonstration is prohibited during the Games.

Today
Stored snow in Sochi.

Then there's the weather. Sochi is known for its mild winters, and the resort city has been storing snow under insulation and making sure it can move the white stuff to areas that may get low. When Matt asked if skiers and snowboarders would be competing in short sleeves, Chernyshenko said there’s no need to worry about the weather. “This a great example of the duality of subtropics, but we always enjoy a lot of snow."

The Games bring worldwide attention and booming business, but at a hefty price tag. This year’s Olympics are expected to cost as much as $50 billion.

Beyond infrastructure and politics is the competition. Chernyshenko says one of his hopes for the Games is to see Russia beat the U.S in men’s ice hockey and win the gold. It would be a “great achievement,” he said.

NBC’s coverage of the XXII Winter Olympic Games kicks off Feb. 6. 

  • Slideshow Photos

    Scenes from Sochi: 100 days before the 2014 Winter Olympics

    Take a glimpse at the latest preparations underway in Sochi, Russia.

  • Scenes from Sochi: 100 days before the 2014 Winter Olympics

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    With 100 days to go until the February start of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, NBC News producers offer a fresh look at Sochi's landscape, and the preparations underway. Pictured here: the Bolshoy Ice Dome at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Park.

    Tracy Snyder/NBC News / Tracy Snyder/NBC News
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    Olympic Rings welcome visitors arriving at Sochi International Airport.

    Zoya Taylor/NBC News / Zoya Taylor/NBC News
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    There are two clusters of athletic venues at the Sochi Olympics: mountain and coastal, and each of these two areas will have an Olympic Village. Pictured here, the Olympic Village in the mountains.

    Tracy Snyder/NBC News / Tracy Snyder/NBC News
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    In the mountain cluster, the Alpine Center is where several skiing events will take place. There's no snow yet, but the leaves are changing.

    Tracy Snyder/NBC News / Tracy Snyder/NBC News
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    Inside the Bolshoy Ice Dome the ice is ready for hockey players. This year the NHL announced it would take a break in February to send its players to Sochi for a tournament running from Feb. 12 – 23.

    Tracy Snyder/NBC News / Tracy Snyder/NBC News
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    The oval-shaped Adler Arena for speed skating includes a ceiling that reduces heat emissions to ensure the ice surface remains cool.

    Tracy Snyder/NBC News / Tracy Snyder/NBC News
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    Palm trees, seen here prior to being installed in front of the Iceberg Skating Palace.

    Tracy Snyder/NBC News / Tracy Snyder/NBC News
  • Scenes from Sochi: 100 days before the 2014 Winter Olympics

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    Outside the Iceberg Skating Palace, the 2014 Olympic venue for figure skating and short-track speed skating. The Bolshoy Ice Dome can be seen in the background.

    Zoya Taylor/NBC News / Zoya Taylor/NBC News
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    The Sanki Olympic Sliding Center was built at the Alpika Service Mountain Ski Resort.

    Tracy Snyder/NBC News / Tracy Snyder/NBC News
  • Scenes from Sochi: 100 days before the 2014 Winter Olympics

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    Construction is ongoing at the “Fisht” Olympic Stadium, which can hold 40,000 people and will be used for the opening and closing ceremonies as well as the medal ceremonies.

    Tracy Snyder/NBC News / Tracy Snyder/NBC News
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    A portion of Extreme Park, which will host snowboarding, cross-country skiing, and freestyle competitions.

    Tracy Snyder/NBC News / Tracy Snyder/NBC News
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    The Rosa Khutor Alpine Resort will host all Alpine skiing: downhill, combined, giant slalom and super giant slalom.

    Tracy Snyder/NBC News / Tracy Snyder/NBC News
  • Scenes from Sochi: 100 days before the 2014 Winter Olympics

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    Joseph Stalin's dacha, or, country house, in Sochi. It is privately owned and used for conferences and as a hotel.

    Tracy Snyder/NBC News / Tracy Snyder/NBC News
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    Inside Joseph Stalin's dacha.

    Tracy Snyder/NBC News / Tracy Snyder/NBC News
  • Scenes from Sochi: 100 days before the 2014 Winter Olympics

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    A wax figure of Stalin, pictured with memorabilia.

    Tracy Snyder/NBC News / Tracy Snyder/NBC News
  • Scenes from Sochi: 100 days before the 2014 Winter Olympics

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    Shops and restaurants along the seaside in Sochi.

    Tracy Snyder/NBC News / Tracy Snyder/NBC News
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    Sochi’s St. Vladimir Church.

    Tracy Snyder/NBC News / Tracy Snyder/NBC News


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