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Sochi Games unaffected by Georgia conflict, says chief

BEIJING (Reuters) - Preparations for Russia’s first Winter Olympics in the Black Sea resort of Sochi in 2014 are not affected by an armed conflict in nearby Georgia, Sochi 2014 Olympics chief Dmitry Chernyshenko said on Sunday.

Russia poured troops and tanks across its southern border into Georgia and bombed Georgian targets after Tbilisi attempted to retake South Ossetia, a small pro-Russian province which broke away from Georgia in the 1990s.

Georgia accused Russia of starting a military operation on Sunday in Abkhazia, another separatist region of Georgia to the west of South Ossetia. Moscow denied involvement.

Abkhazia, on Georgia’s western border with Russia, is only a 15 minute’s drive from Sochi, which also has plans to bring in construction material from Abkhazia to build its winter sports venues.

“This has nothing to do with the preparations for the Games,” Sochi 2014 Games President Dmitry Chernyshenko told agency reporters. “There is nothing funny in what’s happening. It is very sad what’s going on in the world.”

Chernyshenko said the conflict was best left to the politicians to handle and he thought the issues would be resolved well before the Games in 5- years’ time.

“I am a manager. I am responsible for the Games,” he said. “Personally I am rather optimistic that things will be solved.”

Sochi, which needs to build about 80 percent of the venues and has been told to increase efficiency, also got a vote of confidence on Sunday from the International Olympic Committee.

IOC chief inspector for the Sochi Games, Jean-Claude Killy, a former Olympic champion, said the Games would be a success.

“We are totally confident they are going to make magnificent Games,” Killy told a crowd at an event co-hosted by Sochi and the Vancouver 2010 Olympics organizing committee.

Sochi moved some of its planned venues recently following an environmental report, and has pledged to start construction of all venues no later than 2009 and complete them by 2012 to allow sufficient time for testing.

Editing by Jeremy Laurence