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Sochi Games Officials Defend Russian Skater Who Tweeted Racist Obama Image

Racist Obama tweet by Russian figure skater Russian figure skater Irina Rodnina, who was given the honor to be one of the athletes to light the Olympic torch on Friday, is being heavily criticized for a racist photo of President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama that she tweeted less than five months ago.

Despite the controversy surrounding the photo, organizers for the Sochi Winter Olympics still stand by their decision to have Rodnina light the Olympic torch due to her impressive performance as an Olympic athlete.

In September,  the gold medal-winning figure skater shared an edited photo that featured the president and the first lady seated together while a hand taunts them with a banana.

The tweet was met with serious backlash immediately after it was posted and eventually Rodnina deleted the image.

In the world of cyberspace, however, things are never gone for good.

Just after she lit the Olympic flame, several people began reposting the old image and demanded to know why she was given the honor to light the flame after such a racially insensitive tweet.

Officials for the Sochi Olympic Games are standing behind the decision and reminded spectators that the Olympics are about great athletes and don’t take politics into consideration.

Irina Rodnina's racist Obama tweet“She is a three-time Olympic champion, one of the most respected in the world of Olympic athletes,” the Sochi Games’ organizing committee president and CEO Dmitriy Chernysheko told reporters on Saturday. “I want to stress that the Olympics is not about politics, and any political talks about discussions are inappropriate.”

Konstantin Ernst, the chief creative director for the Sochi Games’ production, mirrored those thoughts,  although he also added that he never saw the tweet.

“I didn’t read the Twitter of Miss Rodnina, but she’s the greatest athlete and the only figure skater who won three gold medals and as Thomas Bach said, Olympic Games have nothing to do with politics,” Ernst said. “All of us remember her as a great athlete.”

When the Olympic champion posted the tweet in September she insisted that there was nothing racist about the photo and that she was exercising her freedom of speech.

“Freedom of speech is freedom of speech, and you should answer for your own hang-ups,” she said,  after she deleted the photo.

The 64-year-old figure skater has never apologized for the tweet and she has yet to publicly comment on the photo.

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