- © RIA Novosti. Said Tsarnaev
© RIA Novosti. Said Tsarnaev
GROZNY, Russia, January 28 (R-Sport) - With the start of the Winter Olympics in Sochi just 10 days away, the Olympic flame toured the capital of formerly war-torn Chechnya on Tuesday.
The final torchbearer in the city of Grozny was regional government head Ramzan Kadyrov, a former warlord who has been accused of numerous human rights abuses in running Chechnya, which was riven by two wars in the 1990s and early 2000s.
“We are sure that Grozny has prepared the most solumn and colorful ceremony for the relay,” Kadyrov said in comments on his Instagram page. “We wish beautiful victories for our athletes.”
Dressed in multicolored Olympic torchbearer garb, Kadyrov led a delegation to collect the flame at the city’s airport and escorted its passage through the city in a white Mercedes Benz along streets named after Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kadyrov’s father.
Kadyrov then held the torch himself at the city’s Ahmad-Arena football stadium. Compared to other areas of Russia, torch relays in Chechnya and other cities in the restive Caucasus have been noticeably shorter and confined to central, well-secured areas such as stadiums.
To reduce security risks, routes through some of the more dangerous areas were trimmed following twin suicide blasts in the nearby city of Volgograd last month that claimed 34 lives.
Both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the International Olympic Committee have expressed confidence the February 7-23 Olympic Games will be secure.
As well as Kadyrov, other torchbearers Tuesday included former WBO light middleweight boxing champion Zaurbek Baysangurov and London 2012 Olympic wrestling gold medalist Dzhamal Otarsultanov.