Olympics: Putin visits village, tells team Russia expects

SOCHI, Russia - President Vladimir Putin Wednesday descended on the Olympic Village two days before the opening of the Winter Games in Sochi, telling the Russian team that millions were expecting great results from the squad.

Putin was given a guided tour round the coastal Olympic village, where athletes in non-mountain sports like ice hockey and skating are based, by former Olympic pole vault champion Elena Isinbayeva.

The pole vault queen is the so-called "mayor" of the Olympic Village and has always been an enthusiastic backer of the Russian strongman.

Putin said in an address to the Russian team that "millions are going to be watching for every one of your performances."

"We are really counting on you. We have a young, very promising team and I do not doubt that you will do everything to be successful."

Russia won only three gold medals at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, a performance that was seen as a national debacle by most Russians. However experts believe Russia will have its work cut out to do substantially better this time.

Putin also dropped by the athletes' canteen, gym and library where he greeted foreign athletes including US women who eagerly snapped him with their mobile phones.

He also emphasised that security was a major concern at the Sochi Games, which are located in an area close a Islamist insurgency in the Northern Caucasus.

"This is always a worry not just at international events but at political ones too," said Putin.

"We all remember the tragic events, like at the United States marathon" in Boston last year where bombings carried out by Caucasus militants killed three and wounded 260.

He said that Sochi had an "operational headquarters" for security issues that was staffed "round the clock" by security service agents from different countries.