Russia getting torched over torchbearer choice

Posted by William Douglas on February 8, 2014 

That feel-good moment from igniting the 2014 Winter Olympics' flame didn't last long as questions arose shortly after Friday's opening ceremony about the choice of one of the torchbearers.

Was the decision to put the torch in the hands of Irina Rodnina, a three-time Olympic pairs figure skating champion, Russia's payback to President Barack Obama for sending a low-level official U.S. delegation to Sochi to signal his displeasure with a Russian anti-propaganda law that's widely considered anti-gay?

 Rodnina stirred controversy last September because her Twitter account contained altered pictures of Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama and somebody holding a banana in front of them. At the time, she said the photo was sent to her by friends in America.

Rodnina never apologized for the photo and argued that 'Freedom of speech is freedom of speech and you should answer for your own hangups.' Rodnina is a member of Russian President Vladimir Putin's political party and a member of the government.

When word of the photo surfaced, Michael McFaul, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, took to Twitter to blast Rodnina for 'outrageous behavior, which only brings shame to her parliament and country.'

Dmitry Chernyshenko, chief executive of the Sochi Olympic organizing committee, and Konstantin Ernst, the producer of Friday's opening ceremony, denied the Rodnina's choice was revenge for the U.S. delegation that included three gay athletes.

'I want to stress that the Olympics is not about politics and any political talks and discussions are inappropriate for Olympic Games,' Chernyshenko told reporters.

A spokesman for the United States Olympic Committee declined to comment, saying the U.S. was focused on competition.


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