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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Says Moscow Deserves the Olympics

President Vladimir Putin threw his weight behind Moscow's underdog bid for the 2012 Olympics on Wednesday, saying Russia is a global sports power that deserves to host the games.

"I'm sure you will agree with me that our country is one of the greatest athletic powers in the world," Putin told the IOC evaluation panel in the ornate Catherine Hall at the Kremlin. "A constellation of athletic talent lives in Moscow."

Putin said Russia remembers the political and international situation in 1980, when Moscow hosted Summer Games boycotted by the United States after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.

"Thank God that time has passed," Putin said. "The world has changed. Russia itself has changed, but one thing has not changed, and that is the interest of the Russian people and their love of sports."

Putin said the 1980 Olympics showed Moscow is capable of hosting large sports events.

"We hope that the decision that will be taken regarding the site for the games will be justified, balanced and fair," he said.

Moscow, which is the last of the five finalists to be visited by the evaluators, has long been considered the outsider against Paris, London, New York and Madrid. The full International Olympic Committee will select the host city on July 6.

The IOC panel held closed-door meetings with Moscow's bid team for most of the third day of its four-day visit. After the meeting with Putin, inspectors were attending a lavish evening reception at the Kremlin hosted by Mayor Yury Luzhkov and Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov.

Among the topics to be discussed were the political and economic climate in Russia, as well as the security situation in Moscow, which has endured a spate of terrorist attacks in recent years, including the seizure of hundreds of hostages at the Dubrovka theater.

On Tuesday, the delegation visited site venues around Moscow, watching ice skating and indoor cycling among other displays.