A rather blatant snub occurred at the opening ceremonies of the Sochi Olympics today. Irina Rodnina was hand-selected by President Vladimir Putin to light the Olympic torch.
Why is this a big deal?
Because of this wordless Tweet (below) with a digitally manipulated photo of the President and First Lady that Rodnina sent out last September…
While Rodnina, currently a member of parliament for Putin’s United Russia political party, has since deleted the photo from her Twitter account, she insisted she had done nothing wrong in a follow-up tweet, according to the Guardian. “Freedom of speech is freedom of speech,” she wrote in September, “and you should answer for your own hang-ups.”
She subsequently deleted the offending Tweet, but refused to apologize for it.
U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul quickly responded on Twitter, calling Rodnina’s actions “outrageous behavior, which only brings shame to her parliament and country.”
Rodnina’s selection to light the Olympic cauldron seems to suggest otherwise from Russia’s perspective. (source)
Rodnina is one of the most successful figure skaters in the world. She won 10 World Championships in a row and 3 successive Olympic gold medals. She is the first pair skater to win gold medals with two different partners. (source)
This is perhaps in retaliation to what some have called a “Star-Spangled middle finger” by President Obama.
Putin has loudly decried homosexuality with recently passed anti-gay legislation that criminalises portraying homosexuality to children as anything other than undesirable and unnatural. Despite the new laws, Putin has vowed not to persecute any athletes or attendees that wear rainbow badges during the Olympics.
So, it seems entirely likely that when Obama opted out of attending the Olympics and sent, in his stead, lesbian tennis star Billie Jean King and gay hockey player Caitlin Cahow, that Putin was less than pleased.
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