By Duncan Mackay

February 2 - All eyes will be turning East at the end of his month's Olympics as the Mayor of Sochi receives the Olympic Flag from his Vancouver counterpart  during the Games closing ceremony on February 28 but fears are growing that the build-up to first Winter Games to be held in Russia could be affected by changes at the top of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC).

With Russian athletes expected to be in contention for many of the key medals during the Vancouver Games, the ROC  will increasingly come into contact with the wider Olympic family in Vancouver.

But seasoned observers within the Olympic Movement have told insidethegames that they are growing increasingly concerned that  that the ROC's  international relations capability has been badly weakened by the results of their elections last year.

Victor Khotochkin, the ROC first vice-president, and Leonid Miroshnichenko, the ROC deputy secretary general, long-standing and popular figures on the global Olympic meetings circuit, were surprisingly voted out of office at the elections.

Khotochkin, 63, is particularly highly thought of within the Olympic Movement has had a successful international career, including serving as Deputy Minister of Physical Education, Sports and Tourism under Boris Yeltsin and serving as Russia’s representative in the Committee for the Development of Sports at the Council of Europe, including being elected as chairman twice.

According to one source, both spoke excellent English and fully understood the complexities and sensitivities of the Olympic Movement. 

Khotochkin has replaced by Igor Kazikov, the head of the main administrative board of the ROC, who was Russia's deputy Chef de Mission at the Olympics in Beijing in 2008.

The fear is that the absence of Khotochkin and Miroshnichenko from the Olympic Movement could have a damaging effect on Russia's dealings with the body, which could also indirectly impact on Russia's bid to host the 2018 or 2022 World Cup.

The source told insidethegames: "It remains to be seen whether this will be a setback for the ROC international relations at such a critical time but Russia has lost two well respected and loyal servants at a critical time."

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