Vladimir Putin, shirtless President of Russia, received the Olympic torch in Moscow earlier this week. The easy joke is to point out that this is the only flaming thing that Vladimir has accepted in his country in some time. Vlad the Inhaler is welcoming the Winter Games of 2014 to his country. With open arms, and an iron fist.
I have no doubt that the very manly pursuits of the biathlon will be welcomed by President Putin, as will the very straight and conservative alpine skiing. The "Nordic Combined" is bound to raise a few eyebrows, as will the "Freestyle." The fact that the rough and tumble sport of ice hockey will be played by both men and women will most certainly be looked at with great suspicion. Team sports are especially good at creating comradeship, but one must be careful not to tip the scales too far in any one direction. It is not good to be too special or unique in Russia these days. That might be considered "fabulous."
Which brings us to the obvious question for these Winter Olympics: How will this intolerant, homophobic regime treat those most flamboyant of Olympians, the figure skaters? Not that one should assume too awfully much about the sheer athleticism of the Olympiad's most spangled participants. Still, considering the way that Mister Putin and his government has treated gays, it could give one pause before pulling on your spandex and lashing yourself to the luge.
Still, Vladimir insists that the games in Sochi will show "respect for equality and diversity -- ideals that are so intertwined
with the ideals of the Olympic movement itself." Did he say "intertwined?" That sounds pretty gay to me.