Former Russian figure skater and member of Russian parliament Irina Rodnina was granted the honor of lighting the Olympic flame in Sochi on Friday. Her brief moment in the spotlight resulted in the reemergence of an offensive photo she tweeted last year of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.
Rodnina posted the doctored photo — which has been interpreted by some as racist— in September when the U.S. and Russia were debating a possible military strike on Syria.
The Russian skater who just lit the Olympic flame tweeted this doctored, racist photo of the Obamas last September. pic.twitter.com/kQhIDqXwki— Terry Moran (@TerryMoran) February 7, 2014
U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul slammed Rodnina’s “outrageous behavior” at the time. In a future tweet, she reportedly cited her “freedom of speech” without issuing an apology.
Rodnina, an Olympic figure skating gold medalist in 1972, '76 and '80, later deleted the tweet from her account.
On Friday, The Daily Beast also highlighted a purported relationship Russian President Vladimir Putin had with another one of the torchbearers, Alina Kabaeva.
Irina Rodnina and Vladislav Tretiak light the Olympic cauldron during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Friday, Feb. 7, 2014. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, Pool)
Putin is reportedly rumored to have a romantic relationship with the former Olympic champion and member of parliament.
But why the secrecy? The fact is that Putin has never publically acknowledged his rumored relationship with the lithe, bendable Kabaeva. But it has always been a touchy subject for the Russian strongman, who closed down the newspaper Moskovsky Korrespondent after it reported that Putin was leaving his longtime wife, Lyudmila, to marry Kabaeva. On the heels of Putin and Lyudmila’s televised divorce announcement last summer, Putin’s trusty spokesman was oblique when confronting the usual “red herrings” —this time that Putin and Kabaeva had been joined as husband and wife. “It’s his decision and he’s not obliged to talk about his private life,” he told the newspaper Izvestia. In January, reports surfaced that Kabaeva gave birth to her second love child with Putin, who is rumored to have shipped her to his “palatial retreat” in...Sochi.
After all, sleeping with Russia’s muscular president is seemingly great way to advance one’s career—to carry the Olympic flame, or, in the case of another alleged mistress, to be hired as his personal photographer despite not being a particularly good photographer (see Yana Lapikova’s cat portrait and other works showcasing her aptitude with a camera).
This post has been updated.
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