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1ST LEAD IOC boss Bach praises Brazil and defends Russia ruling By John Bagratuni, dpa

Europe
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Rio de Janeiro (dpa) - International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach on Monday expressed faith in local organizers ahead of the Rio Games and also defended the decision not to impose a blanket ban on Russian athletes in connection with doping.

Bach spoke at the formal opening of the 129th IOC Session at the Citade das Artes venue, with the working sessions running from Tuesday until Thursday.

The Rio Games August 5-21 take place in a deep political and economic crisis in Brazil which led to construction delays and financial constraints in the build-up.

"It has been a long and testing journey to get to this point: for all stakeholders of the Olympic Movement, for our Brazilian friends and for the IOC," Bach said, speaking of "challenging" final preparations but "unparalleled efforts" of Brazil.

"Rio de Janeiro would not be where it is today, without the Olympic Games as a catalyst. History will talk about a Rio de Janeiro before the Olympic Games and a much better Rio de Janeiro after the Olympic Games," he said.

The statements came although Brazil is far from the emerging power it was when Rio was elected Olympic host in 2009. Brazil faces its worst recession since the 1930s, and on the political side suspended President Dilma Rousseff faces an impeachment trial.

The Russian doping crisis has been the other major issue and the IOC controversially decided a week ago not to impose a blanket ban on the country despite allegations of widespread and state-sponsored doping in Russian sport made by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), rather letting the sports federations decide.

"If proven true, such a contemptuous system of doping is an unprecedented attack on the integrity of sport and on the Olympic Games," Bach said.

"Because of the seriousness of the allegations we could not uphold the presumption of innocence for Russian athletes. On the other hand, we cannot deprive an athlete of the human right to be given the opportunity to prove his or her innocence."

In his speech, Bach also praised athletes of the refugee team at the Games as "an enrichment to society just as they are an enrichment to our Olympic family."

Bach also reiterated that the Olympic Movement must engage with youth to stay relevant, highlighting the importance of digital content - including an IOC visit to Silicon Valley - which will also feature prominently in an Olympic News Channel to go on air immediately after the Games.

"Now is the time for faith in the future. A new world of opportunities is opening up for us. Let us be united in this faith and shape the future together," Bach concluded.

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