Coe and Hay upbeat in countdown to Olympic opening

06 February 2014 / 12:04

Seb Coe took a morning jog in a Russian Olympic city for the first time in 34 years today - though the pace was a little more sedate than his gold medal 1500m run at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium.

The British Olympic Association chairman ran with the Olympic torch as it concluded its 123 day journey around Russia ahead of Friday's opening ceremony.

"It's great to be back in a Russian Olympic city again and to run with the torch again," said Coe.

"It was a slightly shorter distance than when I last ran with the torch in Sheffield, about 150 metres, and marginally slower than my last Olympic run in the county 34 years ago. 

"It's a different world now and, from a personal perspective, it's a wholly better world for many people."

Coe heads a 56-strong athlete delegation in Sochi, alongside Team GB chef de mission Mike Hay and new British Olympic Association chief executive Bill Sweeney.

Hay, who coached Great Britain to curling gold in 2002, is cautiously optimistic about medal ambitions, with five world medallists last season fuelling hopes of the most successful British games since 1924 in Chamonix, when the team won four medals.

"I'm a canny Scot so I will err on the side of caution but we have a number of athletes competing at a top-class level in winter sports," said Hay. 

"It does not guarantee anything but I'd rather have athletes of that calibre.

"Without putting any additional pressure on but, across more disciplines and more sports than ever before, we're a strong team. We are confident we will do well and there is a great spirit in the camp.

"The quality of the accommodation we've been granted is as good as any we've seen at an Olympic Games, our athletes and officials are very happy. The venues are stunning and state of the art and it will be thrilling for our athletes to compete in them."

And Hay expects a strong turn-out of British athletes for the opening ceremony, where the flag will be carried by three-time short track speed skater Jon Eley.

"The logistics of bringing people down from the mountain cluster, if they are competing within 48 hours, is something we've raised," added Hay.

"It's an athlete's choice and that can lead to a debate around performance with their team leaders. Some are in competition already or are competing the following day.

"The bobsleigh team are still at their preparation camp in Germany and don't arrive until the 15th and we have some snow sport athletes at a training camp.

"We'll still have a good turnout tomorrow."

Meanwhile, British team officials have played down reports of a specific security threat in Sochi.

"We haven't been appraised of any particular situation. We are in permanent contact with all the agencies you would expect us to be in contact with. I'm unaware of any overtures that have been made to us," added Coe.

"The balance of security on the torch relay I witnessed today was absolutely pitch perfect. I think that is a good omen for the rest of the Games."

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