By Nick Butler at the Main Press Centre in Sochi
February 10 – Olympic Flame lighter Irina Rodnina has apologised for the racist tweet she posted about United States President Barrack Obama but claimed her account was hacked.
In the first of two messages this afternoon Rodnina wrote: “I respect the Obama family and apologize for not clearly stating earlier that I don’t support the tweeted photo or racism in any form.”
Moments later the former skater added: “My account was hacked and I should have shown better judgement in my initial response and handling of the event.”
This comes after the former three-time Olympic pairs champion – who lit the Olympic Cauldron at the climax of the Opening Ceremony with ice hockey legend Vladislav Tretiak last Friday (February 7) – posted a doctored photo of President Obama and wife Michelle looking at someone holding a banana.
The revelation of the tweet caused controversy in the US where many saw it as a Russian strategy to avenge Obama’s decision not to attend the Opening Ceremony, reportedly in protest to anti-gay propaganda laws introduced into the Russian parliament last year.
The US instead sent a delegation led by three openly gay figures, former tennis player Billie Jean King, two-time Olympic ice hockey medalist Caitlin Cahow, and ex-Olympic skating champion Brian Boitano.
Both Sochi 2014 and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) the tweet had nothing to do with a decision to choose Rodnina that was for purely sporting reasons.
But many of those who have replied to Rodnina’s tweets this evening are skeptical that her account really was hacked.
There have also been suggestions that the former skater, now an MP for President Vladimir Putin’s ruling United Russia party, may have been subject to political pressure to apologize.
This story is republished with permission from Inside the Games. The original story can be found by clicking: http://www.insidethegames.biz/olympics/winter-olympics/2014/1018327-sochi-2014-flamelighter-rodnina-apologises-for-racist-tweet-but-claims-account-hacked