Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin addresses Russia’s anti-gay law, Sochi Olympic costs, hockey

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Russian president Vladimir Putin said he hopes there will be no “negative implications” around the Sochi Olympics from his country’s law banning the promotion of “non-traditional” sexual relations toward minors.

Russian officials have said that homosexuals will not be discriminated against during the Games, Feb. 7-23, but that the law will be enforced.

“We have no laws against people with non-traditional sexual orientation,” Putin said, according to a 13,000-word transcript on the Kremlin’s website. “You kind of create an illusion among millions of spectators that we do have such laws, but we do not have such laws in Russia. Russia has adopted the law banning propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors, but these are completely different things.”

Putin was asked specifically about the term “propaganda” in the law, and what that could mean. Here’s the question and answer on the Kremlin’s site:

JOHN DANISZEWSKI: When the law says it’s a crime to do propaganda, would that include things like waiving a rainbow flag or painting your body in rainbow colours? Is that propaganda for young people? Will visitors and athletes have to have these kinds of concern?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: No. In Russia, people who initiated these laws and who adopted this law (I, by the way, was not the initiator) assumed that homosexual marriages do not give children. Russia is going through hard times in terms of demographics. And we are more interested in full-fledged families and more children. It is not the main thing in the whole system of measures aimed at supporting demographic processes. But I think the authors of the law were guided by the need to solve demographic problems and were far from the idea of infringing anyone’s rights. And certainly not during the Olympic Games or other mass sport events, especially the Olympics – one can be absolutely sure that Russia will faithfully follow the principles of Olympism, which do not admit any kind of discrimination, national, gender, or sexual one, mentioned by you.

Putin also said he works with gay people and has awarded them state medals. He praised famous 19th-century Russian composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky, who was said to be homosexual.

“We have absolutely normal relations, and I don’t see anything out of the ordinary here,” Putin said, according to The Associated Press. “Truth be told, we don’t love him because of that, but he was a great musician and we all love his music.”

Putin said he would be open to meeting with members of the LGBT community.

Putin was also asked about Sochi Olympic spending and said 214 billion rubles ($6.4 billion) will be spent to prepare for the Games in February. Of the 214 billion, 100 billion came from the government and 114 billion from “private investors,” Putin said.

In February, the Russian government commission said 1.5 trillion rubles ($45 billion) would be spent, slightly more than the Olympic record cost of the 2008 Beijing Games, according to RIA Novosti.

“This country may have spent more to prepare for the Games in general, yet it has not invested more than any other country in the Olympic facilities themselves,” Putin said.

Finally, there was this exchange:

JOHN DANISZEWSKI: Are you willing tonight to predict the gold for the Russian hockey team?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Of course, I can.

JOHN DANISZEWSKI: Ok, we will see.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: And what will you see? I have not yet told you what my predictions are.

JOHN DANISZEWSKI: Oh, I thought you were predicting a Russian victory. Or maybe just snow, there’ll be a lot of snow.

Pavel Bure says Russia ‘indisputable’ favorite for men’s hockey gold

Claressa Shields congratulated by famous boxing actor (video)

Claressa Shields
Getty Images
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Claressa Shields may just be the most dominant female athlete on the planet. The Flint, Mich., native is now a two-time Olympic boxing champion with a 77-1 record and a four-year unbeaten streak.

Actor Mark Wahlberg, who played boxer Micky Ward in the 2010 film “The Fighter,” took notice.

He taped a video that Shields watched before a celebration in her hometown Thursday, according to the Flint Journal.

“You are the true definition of a champion,” Wahlberg said. “You continue to inspire so many people, not only in Flint, but all over the world. I’m so proud of you. Your performance was amazing. God bless you. I look forward to seeing you, and I look forward to doing lots of things with you.”

Now Shields must decide whether to turn professional, which would end her Olympic career.

“Professional women’s boxing is not nowhere near on the same attention level as the Olympics are,” the 21-year-old Shields said, according to the Flint Journal. “I get way more attention than any female boxer who is professional right now with me being an amateur.

“So the goal is to go professional but still have that same attention and same mainstream. Hopefully, if they have the rule changed that the women professionals can come back and fight the Olympics, I would go professional to fight on TV and make a bunch of money but then come back and defend my two gold medals in 2020.”

MORE: Shields becomes first U.S. fighter to win back-to-back golds

Russian Olympic medalists gifts include racehorse

Abdulrashid Sadulaev
AP
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MOSCOW (AP) — Luxury cars, apartments, even a racehorse — being an Olympic medalist in Russia can come with great material rewards but also controversy.

Under President Vladimir Putin, it’s become a tradition for Russia’s Olympic heroes to be showered with large cash sums and sometimes unwanted gifts.

On Friday, less than 24 hours after dozens of medalists were presented with BMW cars at the Kremlin by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, an advertisement appeared online offering one of them for sale, with photographs showing the car still covered in stickers celebrating Russia’s medal haul in Rio.

The advertisement offering the BMW X6 for 4.67 million rubles ($72,000) was anonymous and quickly withdrawn. It couldn’t be independently verified by The Associated Press, though Russian agency R-Sport claimed the seller was a Russian medalist who thought the car was too big and unwieldy.

Figure skater Maxim Trankov, who received a Mercedes-Benz SUV for his gold medal in 2014, said few Olympians could afford to own such cars.

“Has no one thought that these gift cars are not only liable for the tax on luxury items, but also aren’t cheap to run and earnings can’t cover it?” he wrote on Twitter. “I’d sell mine too if it came to it … Or does everyone think all sports pay as well as soccer, hockey or tennis?”

Gymnast Seda Tutkhalyan said she wouldn’t be able to drive her new BMW because at 17 years of age she was too young to have a license.

While online commenters mostly supported an athlete’s right to sell expensive Olympic gifts, many were critical of the government for a display of conspicuous consumption at the Kremlin at a time when Russia’s pension and healthcare systems are under financial strain.

It’s not fully clear how much the prizes have cost the Russian government.

State TV channel Rossiya 24 reported that the fleet of BMWs was provided by the Olympians’ Support Fund, which is backed by a group of Russia’s richest men, but that the accompanying cash prizes of tens of thousands of dollars per medalist came in part from the federal budget.

More awards are on offer from regional governments, many of which made public displays of generosity despite financial troubles of their own.

The Caucasus region of North Ossetia last month promised a free apartment for any medalists from the area, though it isn’t clear if this has happened yet.

In another grand gesture, the head of the restive Dagestan region gave Olympic wrestling champion Abdulrashid Sadulaev 6 million rubles ($93,000) in cash and a racehorse at a lavish welcoming ceremony featured on local TV.

Still, all may not be well for Sadulaev, who’s nicknamed the “Russian Tank” for his habit of crushing opponents on the wrestling mat. He’s already facing an allegation from a Moscow radio presenter of reckless driving in his eye-catching BMW.

MORE: Putin slams Russia’s Paralympic ban