Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Team USA’s Olympic Committee headquarters on Friday. According to United States Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun, politics never came up during the 30-minute visit.
"We're sport people. We're not political people," Blackmun told USA Today Sports
. "When a head of state called and asked if he could visit, we were delighted. We certainly didn't get into any of the things that are deeper issues."
"All we talked about was sport," Blackmun added, "and that's appropriate given that that's all we do."
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The decision by Putin to visit the USA Team appeared to be a gesture aimed at removing any lingering sentiment that a tension existed between the Russian president and President Barack Obama, whose delegation to the games consisted of several former gay athletes
— a not-so-subtle protest to Russia’s anti-gay laws
Prior to the visit, Russian security members had reportedly camped out around the USA Team’s headquarters for several hours until the head of Putin’s security detail arrived Friday afternoon. Once there the security chief sampled red and white wine, Budweiser beer and even a few cookies and brownies before the Russian president’s arrival, USA Today reported.
Putin arrived at approximately 6:40 p.m. local time and after greeting the committee sat down and drank a glass of red wine with several members.
"The wine is good," a smiling Putin reportedly said.
According to Blackmun, Putin was in good spirits during the meeting, however he did express some concern as to the living conditions for the U.S. athletes.
"It was really him just wanting to know is the work they did and the service they're providing up to our standard. That was the primary purpose of his visit," Blackmun said.
"He did a very, very good job of explaining to us why this is good for Russia," Blackmun added. "And our athletes are very happy with the services being provided here."
A significant amount of reporting from Western journalists in the weeks leading up to the opening ceremony at the Olympic Games focused on how poor the living conditions were in certain hotels, with journalists frequently posting pictures of yellow sink water and exposed wiring to suggest that Russia was inadequately prepared for the games.
One American-born spectator at the USA Team during Putin’s visit apparently disagreed with much of the U.S. media’s representation of the Sochi Games.
As Putin left, Valerie Ireland, who is originally from New York but now lives in Nairobi, Kenya, screamed out to Putin, "Beautiful Olympics!"
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Putin stopped, turned around and came back to where Ireland was, USA Today reported.
"He said thank you and shook my hand," Ireland told the newspaper.
"I think this is a really beautiful Olympics. I think it kind of got a raw deal in the press," Ireland told USA Today. "This is a beautiful Olympics, and the Russians have been so gracious. I just wanted him to know, and I think he appreciated it."
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