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- and, yes, those wild and crazy pants worn by the Norwegian men’s curling team - red, white and blue zig-zag patterns this time.

For now, the world’s focus remains squarely on the terror danger posed by the Islamic insurgency in the Northern Caucasus. An Islamic militant group in Dagestan claimed responsibility for two suicide bombings that killed 34 people in late December in Volgograd and threatened to attack the games in Sochi.

Russian security officials have been hunting for three potential female suicide bombers, one of whom is believed to be in Sochi itself. The suspects are known as “black widows,” women seeking to avenge husbands or male relatives killed in Russia’s fight against insurgents in the region.

“We know some of them got through the perimeter,” said Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee. “What we don’t know is how many more black widows are out there. … How many potential cells could be in Sochi and the Olympic Village?”

Russia is mounting what is believed to be the biggest security operation ever for an Olympics, deploying more than 50,000 police and soldiers to protect the games. The cordon includes naval warships, anti-aircraft batteries and drone aircraft. Two U.S. warships will be in the Black Sea to help if needed.

“We will try to make sure that the security measures taken aren’t too intrusive or visible and that they won’t put pressure on the athletes, guests and journalists,” Putin said.

Sochi’s preparations have also been clouded by the Western uproar against a Russian law enacted last year that prohibits gay “propaganda” among minors. Critics and gay activists say the law discriminates against homosexuals and could be used against anyone openly supporting gay rights at the games.

Putin has insisted there will be no discrimination of any kind against any athletes or spectators in Sochi, yet his recent comments linking homosexuality and pedophilia have only inflamed the issue.

The IOC, meanwhile, has reminded athletes to comply with “Rule 50” of the Olympic Charter, which forbids protests or political gestures at Olympic venues.

President Barack Obama has seized on the issue by sending a U.S. delegation to Sochi that includes three openly gay members - tennis great Billie Jean King, figure skater Brian Boitano and ice hockey player Caitlin Cahow.

Hoping to show off a resurgent Russia that emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, organizers have built virtually all Olympic facilities from scratch to turn a decaying, Stalinist-era resort into what they hope will be a year-round tourist destination and winter sports mecca for the region.

Sochi features one of the most compact layouts in Olympic history, with all indoor arenas located close to each other in an Olympic Park along the coast. The cluster of snow venues are about 45 minutes away in the Krasnaya Polyana mountains.

“The venues will be perhaps the most spectacular, the best ever,” said senior Norwegian IOC member Gerhard Heiberg, who organized the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer.

The project has come at a monumental cost: the $51 billion price tag, which includes construction of news road, tunnels, rail lines and other long-term infrastructure investments, is a record for any Winter or Summer Games. Billions of dollars have disappeared in kickbacks, embezzlement or mismanagement, critics claim.

“What’s not good is all the money that’s been spent,” said Heiberg, head of the IOC marketing commission. “This could influence very badly cities thinking about bidding for the games.”

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