Amidst all the controversy surrounding the winter games in Sochi, an especially eye-opening development has arisen concerning a celebrated Russian athlete and an openly racist tweet she sent out last September.
Irina Rodnina is a former figure skating champion and current member of Putin’s United Russia party. During Friday night’s opening ceremony to the games, she was given the hugely visible honor of lighting the Olympic torch for her country.
But exactly why Putin would put her at the forefront of such a widely watched event is somewhat of a mystery, considering that Rodnina created a storm of controversy after she tweeted out a blatantly racist and doctored picture of Barack and Michelle Obama.
During the lighting of the torch on Friday night, ABC’s Terry Moran shared the now-deleted photo again on Twitter:
At the time of the tweet, Rodnina defended her actions as a freedom of speech issue, failing to address the racial tone of the photo, which featured the President and First Lady with a banana superimposed in front of them.
“She is a three-time Olympic champion, one of the most respected in the world of Olympic athletes,” Sochi Games organizing committee president and CEO Dmitriy Chernyshenko said to reporters. “I want to stress that Olympics is not about politics, and any political talks about discussions are inappropriate.”
Watch Rodnina light the Olympic torch in the video below, via CNN: