International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge officially invited nations of the world to take part in the 2014 Winter Games, set to open exactly one year from Thursday in Sochi, Russia.
Rogge personally handed invitations to representatives from the most recent host (Canada), current host (Russia) and future host (South Korea) of the Winter Games, as well as the next Summer Games host (Brazil). The remaining invites were sent from the Olympic committee's headquarters in Switzerland.
"A year before the start of an Olympic Games is traditionally the time we invite the athletes of the world to take part in the Games, which are a celebration of sport, peace and humanity," said Rogge at a ceremony at the Bolshoi Ice Palace in Sochi. "These will be the first Olympic Winter Games to be held in Russia, and the Russians are eager to welcome the world to the shores of the Black Sea and the mountains of the Caucasus. A spectacular setting with equally impressive venues await those who qualify -- the perfect platform on which to compete. I wish all the athletes hoping to compete here next February all the best in their preparations."
Also in attendance from the host country were Russian president Vladimir Putin, IOC coordination chairman and Olympic champion skier Jean-Claude Killy, and Russian IOC members Vitaly Smirnov, Shamil Tarpishev and Alexander Popov.
"Today is a milestone day for us," said Sochi organizing committee president and CEO Dmitry Chernyshenko. "In just one year's time we will invite the whole world to Sochi and we are eager to help every guest enjoy the best Winter Games in history. I believe we are pretty much where we should be at this point in time. All sports venues in the mountain and coastal clusters are almost ready, and the volunteer selection process for the Sochi Games is approaching the finish line. But now is the time for us to really concentrate and to do our best during this final stage before the Games."
The XXII Olympic Winter Games are scheduled for Feb. 7-23, 2014.