The door to the van opens, and Anita DeFrantz takes a seat and stares at the soaring mountains before her.

DeFrantz is a longtime IOC member, the highest ranking among the four from the United States, and a member of the executive board.

The van makes its way through quick turns to the site of Sunday's men's 4x10 kilometer cross-country relay, and DeFrantz points to a line of black cars by the side of the road.

"Must be somebody important here," she says, all too familiar with the nuances of Olympic protocol.

Right she is. Russian President Vladimir Putin is on the grounds — encased in a jacket so red it would do Santa and his entire workshop proud — for a race in which his country will win the silver medal.

DeFrantz walks toward the course and likes what she sees so far in Sochi.

"The athletes are happy," says DeFrantz, who as a former Olympic rower knows the importance of that. "The hospitality has been terrific."

For all the fears leading to the games about oppressive security and Olympic lockdown, DeFrantz dismisses such concerns. "This is not an armed camp," she says. "I haven't seen a weapon since I've been here. The people who have been talking about this, it's such nonsense."

Before she heads off to a VIP entrance, DeFrantz is asked about the balmy weather. She knows the IOC can control many things, but it does not hold dominion over the heavens.

"I'm glad it's not frigid," she says. "I survived Lillehammer. I had icicles coming out of my nose."

— By Fred Lief — Twitter http://twitter.com/fredlief


Associated Press reporters are filing dispatches about happenings in and around Sochi during the 2014 Winter Games. Follow AP journalists covering the Olympics on Twitter: http://apne.ws/1c3WMiu