Sochi 2014, IOC official defend torch-lighting honor granted Russian skater who posted racially insensitive tweet


Irina Rodnina and Vladislav Tretyak 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)

In response to criticism of the choice of Irina Rodnina to help light the Olympic torch Friday, the CEO of the Sochi Games said Saturday that politics had no place on the Olympic stage.

It has become a frequent refrain of officials associated with the 2014 Games.

Rodnina, 64, a three-time Olympic figure-skating champion in pairs, tweeted a doctored photograph of President Obama last September showing the president, seated at a dinner beside the First Lady, with a banana super-imposed on his image. After removing the image following a barrage of criticism, Rodnina defended her post as her right to freely express herself.

Asked what factors led to her selection for one of the Olympic Games’ highest honors, Dmitry Chernyshenko, CEO of the Sochi organizing committee, noted Saturday that Rodnina was a three-time Olympic champion and among the world’s most respected athletes.

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

Asked whether the International Olympic Committee vetted her selection, IOC spokesman Mark Adams: “From the IOC point of view, clearly it is not the IOC that chooses torch bearers. As Dmitry said, she was chosen for what she has done in sport. She is a triple gold-medalist in skating, and she has done a great deal of work for sport, and that is what she was chosen for. But it was a decision that Sochi took, as they did with all of the torch bearers.”

 

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