Vladimir Putin, Thomas Bach

Vladimir Putin: Sochi ‘almost ready’ for Olympics

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Vladimir Putin said the “overwhelming majority” of sites for the Sochi Olympics are “almost ready” and that a “final push” remains with a little more than 100 days before the Games.

The Russian president made the comments while opening a new railway station in Sochi with new International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach.

“Now that the overwhelming majority of sites are almost ready, there’s a final push left, we need to accomplish this final milestone,” Putin said, according to Reuters. “We need to prepare everything once and for all.”

Bach, 59, praised Russia’s record $50 billion preparations for the Olympics, which begin Feb. 6.

The German is familiar with the Black Sea resort. He was the chairman of the IOC evaluation commission for the city’s bid to host the 2002 Winter Games. Sochi did not make the cut of four finalists. Salt Lake City eventually won the right to host in a landslide.

Video: McKayla Maroney’s not impressed face from 2004

“We are fully confident that the Games will be on a magnificent level,” Bach said, according to Reuters.

“We are extremely grateful to you for the magnificent co-operation we developed in recent years. Sochi and the whole region completed a very big, successful development journey and we have been deeply impressed with this path,” he said in comments translated from German into Russian as he sat next to Putin, a fluent German speaker.

Putin also offered another assurance about Russia’s anti-gay law.

“We will do everything to make sure that athletes, fans and guests feel comfortable at the Olympic Games regardless of their ethnicity, race or sexual orientation,” Putin told Bach in remarks broadcast on Russian television, according to Agence France-Presse.

Bach also questioned Putin about the amount of snow for the Olympics, which has been a question. Organizers have stowed about 500,000 cubic meters of snow from this past winter in case of a shortage.

“And we’ll add more, we hope,” Putin said, according to R-Sport.

Photos: Olympic flame’s trip to North Pole

U.S. sprinters past, present trade relay barbs

Justin Gatlin
Getty Images
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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The only loss for the Americans at the Penn Relays came in the men’s 4x100m, as the U.S. team bobbled its victory away on a bad baton handoff between Tyson Gay and Isiah Young for the final leg, which led to a disqualification.

Mike Rodgers and Justin Gatlin gave the Americans an early lead in the race, and things were moving along well during Gay’s third leg. But the muffed handoff for the final leg cost the Americans. Both the winning Jamaican squad and the second American team surpassed them.

Young finished third, but the team was disqualified because the handoff occurred outside the pass zone. The second U.S. team of Sean McLean, Wallace Spearman, Calesio Newman and Remontay McLain finished in 39.02.

The mistake led to some inflammatory comments from U.S. great Leroy Burrell about continued problems with handoffs by U.S. relay teams.

“Well, I think we’ve got to put our team together a little earlier, possibly,” Burrell said in a television interview. “I think, we’ve had the same coaches working with these guys for many years, and we’ve had failure after failure. So it’s possible that, you know, it might be time for a bit of a regime change with the leadership.

“I think the athletes have to be the catalysts that make that happen. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to get the stick around. I saw thousands of relay teams yesterday — maybe not thousands, but hundreds of relay teams get it around. But the professionals can’t. That’s just not good for our sport.”

Rodgers didn’t take kindly to those remarks.

“People keep pointing their fingers and downing us, but nobody has ever tried to come out there and help us,” he said. “Nobody from the past. Not Carl [Lewis] or Leroy. They haven’t been out there. I can’t really respect their opinions because they’re supposed to be leaders in our sport and in the USA, and they’re not coming out there to drop some knowledge on us, so I don’t care what they have to say.”

Lewis criticized U.S. relays in March.

Gatlin was equally critical of Burrell.

“I’m tired of people who have been part of Team USA take shots at Team USA,” Gatlin said. “To put us in the same boat as high schoolers is insulting.”

Bob Costas’ report 100 days out from Rio (video)

Bob Costas
NBC News
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Bob Costas reported from Rio de Janeiro for NBC News on Wednesday, 100 days out from the Opening Ceremony.

In the clip below, Michael PhelpsSimone Biles and even Brazil soccer legend Pelé comment on preparing for the first Games in South America.

Costas finished the clip with a stand-up from Copacabana Beach, where beach volleyball will take place in August.

VIDEO: Bob Costas picks biggest storyline of Rio Olympics