Dmitry Chernyshenko

Sochi Organizing Committee chief addresses Olympic issues on TODAY (video)

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Dmitry Chernyshenko, the head of the Sochi Olympic Organizing Committee, discussed the city’s readiness to host the Games, security and Russia’s anti-gay law among other topics in a TODAY interview Thursday.

“Of course we are ready,” Chernyshenko, 45, told Matt Lauer. “We already successfully tested all our competition venues during the most extensive test event season last winter. It was 22 international level World Cup sports championships, and the athletes were all happy with what they’ve seen.”

Some U.S. athletes have been in Sochi this week for more venue testing and have seen the power go out multiple times.

Of Russia’s anti-gay law, Chernyshenko said athletes will not be arrested if they march with a rainbow pin or speak in a press conference about gay rights.

“What else can I add? 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,” Chernyshenko said. “We organizers keep social inclusivity a key for our Games. Moreover, the rainbow color is not exclusively belongs to someone. For example, our official uniforms for Games organizers is full of rainbow color.”

Protests or rallies, banned around Games time by Russian president Vladimir Putin in August, are a different matter.

“In accordance to Olympic Charter, rule No. 50, any propaganda or any demonstrations is prohibited during the Games,” Chernyshenko said.

The Sochi organizing president repeated that these will be “the safest Games ever.”

“Because we understand from the very beginning of our successful campaign that the safety is a key priority of the organizers,” he said. “Terrorism, it’s a global threat. Take Boston for example. This is an illustration that terrorism has no boundaries.”

Chernyshenko also repeated that U.S. and Russian officials have collaborated on security plans and that military security will not be dressed in standard uniforms but with a more festive look.

As for the Games themselves, Chernyshenko looked forward to one potential matchup in men’s hockey.

“The most desirable scenario in Russia we are looking for is Russia and USA in the final, and Russia win,” Chernyshenko said, adding a thank you to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman for NHL players returning to the Olympics for a fifth straight time.

The U.S. and Russia are scheduled to play on the second Saturday of the Olympics but could also meet in the playoff round if both advance.

Finally, Lauer asked Chernyshenko how to pronounce the name of the host city.

“So-chee,” not So-she, he said.

Photos: Olympic torch blasts off into space aboard Russian rocket

IPC president: Now is the right time to have Paralympics in Brazil

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International Paralympic Committee president Philip Craven said the upcoming Paralympic Games, which open in 100 days, could not be going to a better city than Rio de Janeiro.

“Many people might think that it’s not the time to go there now with the economic and political problems,” Craven said in a phone interview last week. “But is that not just the right time to be going, to just show what sport can truly do to mobilize and galvanize a people?”

And the Zika virus?

“We believe that the measures that have been communicated on a regular basis, reiterated to our member nations, will be effective, and the Zika virus will not have a major effect on the Games,” Craven said.

The Paralympics will visit South America for the first time in their 15th edition. The Rio Games, which run from Sept. 7-18, will have more broadcast coverage than ever and an expected record number of athletes and nations in the largest number of sports on a single Paralympic program.

NBC and NBCSN will air a record 66 hours of coverage of the Games. The USOC will provide live coverage at TeamUSA.org, too.

How the Paralympics will deal with the well-known issues facing Brazil will be largely impacted by how the preceding Olympics handle them.

But one issue unique to the Paralympics came to light four weeks ago.

A British Paralympic champion swimmer was disqualified from a European Championships event because his Olympic rings tattoo was not covered (he later competed at the meet with the tattoo covered).

An International Paralympic Committee swimming rule states, “body advertisements are not allowed in any way whatsoever (this includes tattoos and symbols).”

The rule will cover all sports at the Rio Paralympics. Craven said he has not heard of any appeals by para-athletes to change the rule.

The IPC will take a “common-sense approach” to enforcing the rule in Rio to make sure there are no disqualifications by communicating thoroughly to national committees, Craven said.

“IPC has got very strict rules for the Paralympic Games and for other events prohibiting body advertisements, and this includes tattoos for commercial brands and non-IPC symbols, such as the Olympic rings,” Craven said. “These rules were emphasized, re-emphasized to all competing teams and swimmers at that particular event, and, similarly, we’ll be doing so prior to the Games in Rio.”

Some Paralympians identify themselves as Olympians, too — some have event competed in both Games — but Craven made the difference clear.

The 65-year-old, five-time Paralympic wheelchair basketball player likened Olympic rings tattoos at the Paralympics to an NFL player with an NBA team tattoo.

Craven added that there has been no pressure from the IOC regarding the rule and that he would expect a hypothetical Paralympian competing at the Olympics to cover up a tattoo of the Agitos, which is the Paralympic logo.

“We want Paralympic athletes to show pride in promoting the Paralympic movement, including our symbol, which is the Agitos, which is very different from the Olympic rings,” Craven said. “When you have a Paralympic athlete, a para-athlete sporting a branding from another event, then it just creates confusion. It creates confusion for the IPC. It creates confusion for the IOC.”

MORE: Paralympic champ long jumper still hopes to be allowed into Olympics

First four U.S. Olympic archers qualified; Khatuna Lorig waits

Khatuna Lorig
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The first four U.S. Olympic archers for Rio are known, while Khatuna Lorig will learn in three weeks if she makes her sixth Olympic team.

A full men’s team of 2012 Olympic team silver medalists Brady Ellison and Jake Kaminski and first-time Olympian Zach Garrett earned their spots at the U.S. Olympic Trials that ended Monday.

Mackenzie Brown clinched her first Olympic berth by winning the women’s trials Monday.

The U.S. can send two more women to Rio if it qualifies a full team at a World Cup event in Turkey in three weeks. Those two women would be Hye Youn Park and Lorig.

Lorig, 42, is best known for teaching archery to Jennifer Lawrence before “The Hunger Games.” Lorig also competed in the 1992 Olympics for the Unified Team, the 1996 and 2000 Games for Georgia and the 2008 and 2012 Olympics for the U.S.

Lorig earned team bronze at Barcelona 1992 and finished fifth and fourth individually at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.

The U.S. Olympic team alternates are Daniel McLaughlin and La Nola Pritchard.

MORE: Full list of athletes qualified for U.S. Olympic team