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Putin will not use Games ceremony for propaganda - IOC

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during the IOC President's Gala Dinner in Sochi February 6, 2014. REUTERS/Alexei Nikolsky/RIA Novost
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during the IOC President's Gala Dinner in Sochi February 6, 2014. REUTERS/Alexei Nikolsky/RIA Novost

By Karolos Grohmann

SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin will not use Friday's opening ceremony for propaganda purposes as he has only one sentence to speak to open the Sochi Winter Olympics, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach has said.

The Sochi Games have cost a total of $50 billion to stage, and Putin has staked much prestige - for himself and his nation - on their success.

Russia's human rights record, including current anti-gay propaganda laws, has come under attack from critics, but Bach is confident Putin will not violate Olympic protocol.

"The Olympic Charter is very clear. The President can say only one sentence," Bach said on Friday in reference to the standard line used by heads of state to open the Games, which is: "I hereby declare open the Games of the Olympiad."

Bach said: "Every head of state has respected the Charter apart from one, at Salt Lake City 2002."

Then U.S. President George Bush spoke a slightly longer version of the standard phrase.

"All other heads of state respected the Charter, and I am sure it will be respected tonight," Bach told a news conference.

(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Stephen Wood)

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