By Tom Degun

Valentina Matviyenko_16_FebFebruary 16 - Dagestan's bid to host the 2018 Summer Youth Olympic Games has received a significant boost after Valentina Matviyenko (pictured), the chair of the Federation Council of Russia and the country's highest-ranked female politician, backed it.

The Dagestan bid rests on the city of Kaspiysk, which has already secured the support of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC).

But doubts remain over the submission of a bid because the region is widely regarded as a zone of extreme political turbulence.

Dagestan has been the scene of low-level Islamic insurgency, occasional outbreaks of separatism, ethnic tensions and terrorism (pictured below) since the 1990s in the wake of the break-up of the Soviet Union.

But Matviyenko, the former Governor of St Petersburg and a long-time ally of Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, said that Dagestan should bid for the 2018 Youth Olympics, even if they do not win, to shake off its negative image as being a hotbed of terrorist activity over the last decade.

Dagestan 16_Feb
"Even if we do not win this race, the preparations made for the 2018 Youth Olympics will create very good conditions in the region," said the 62-year-old during a meeting with Dagestani athletes in the provincial capital of Makhachkala.

"The possibility of a submission is forcing federal, regional and local authorities to develop sports infrastructure and to create new sports facilities.

"At the end of the day, we have to show that Dagestan is a Republic that leads a peaceful life and that it is possible for others to come here.

Last month, Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak (pictured below on the right with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev) chaired a meeting in Moscow with a number of senior Government figures to discuss Dagestan's bid and concluded that concluded that Kaspiysk is a "promising" candidate for the competition, although he did not fully back it.

Dmitry Kozak_16_Feb
But new support from the chair of the Federation Council of Russia, the country's third-highest elected office, gives the biggest indication yet that the ROC will submit a bid from Dagestan to the International Olympic Committee on March 1.

Should they bid, Russia will face stiff competition from Buenos Aires in Argentina and Medellín in Colombia, who have already confirmed that they will bid for the competition.

Other potential bid cities include Abuja in Nigeria, Monterrey in Mexico, The Hague in Netherlands and Glasgow in Scotland.

Sweden are also considering a bid from either Gothenburg, Malmö or Stockholm and South Africa a bid from Durban.

However, Russia will be quietly confident of continuing their spectacular run of success in contests to host international sports competitions.

The next few years will bring the 2014 Winter Olympics and Paralympics and the 2018 FIFA World Cup to the country along with several other important sporting events including the 2013 World Athletics Championships and the 2015 World Ice Hockey Championships.

The hosts of the 2018 Youth Olympics will be announced in June 2013.

Contact the writer of the story at [email protected]

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