Vladimir Putin’s Olympics: The Opening Ceremony Torchbearers

Saturday, February 08, 2014
Vladimir Putin and Alina Kabayeva (AP Photo)

If there was any doubt that Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, is in charge of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, take a look at the six athletes who were chosen for the honor of carrying the Olympic Flame inside the stadium during the climax of the otherwise superb Opening Ceremony. Only two of the torchbearers were winter athletes.

 

  • Hockey goalkeeper Vladislav Tretiak, a member of parliament from Putin’s United Russia party
  • Pairs figure skater Irina Rodnina, a member of parliament from Putin’s United Russia party
  • Wrestler Alexander Karelin, a member of parliament from Putin’s United Russia party
  • Rhythmic gymnast (and Putin “special friend”) Alina Kabaeva, a member of parliament from Putin’s United Russia party
  • Pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva, who, although not a member of parliament, got herself into trouble with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) because of her outspoken support for Putin’s anti-gay law.

 

Only tennis player Maria Sharapova, who lived in Sochi until she was six years old, has no political connection to the Russian president.

 

Three days before the Opening Ceremony, IOC President Thomas Bach said that the Olympics should not be used for “trying to score points in internal or external political contests.” Apparently Vladimir Putin didn’t get the message.

-David Wallechinsky

President, International Society of Olympic Historians

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