Criticism of Games reflects "Cold War" mentality: Putin

Mon Feb 10, 2014 4:12pm EST
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By Mike Collett-White

SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Western criticism of Russia's Winter Olympics was reminiscent of Cold War ambitions to hold the Soviet Union back, President Vladimir Putin said on Monday, despite signs that the world was warming to the most expensive Games ever held.

The buildup to the Olympics in Sochi on the Black Sea coast has been overshadowed by threats of Islamist militant violence, an international outcry over a contentious "anti-gay propaganda" law and allegations of widespread corruption and profligacy.

As the third full day of competition drew to a close, that hostility had begun to melt away and the thrills and spills on snow and ice, and a hugely popular Russian gold in the team figure skating on Sunday, began to win the critics around.

Monday's biggest drama was undoubtedly in the men's 500 meter speed skating at the Adler Arena, where, in a Dutch sweep of the medals. Michel Mulder beat Jan Smeekens by one hundredth of a second, having initially been announced as second.

"It was a kick in the gut," said Smeekens, who thought he had won for about "two or three minutes" before the scoreboard adjusted his time. "I was so ecstatic that I won, I can't describe it."

Mulder's twin brother Ronald grabbed bronze as the Dutch continued their dominance of the sport.

The excitement did not stop Putin, who has staked his personal and political prestige on a successful Games, from taking a swipe at his detractors, suggesting he was still smarting from criticism he always maintained was unfair.

"Back in Cold War times the theory of containment was created," he told a televised public meeting in Sochi.   Continued...

Russian President Vladimir Putin watches from the stands during the Team Ladies Free Skating Program at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, February 9, 2014. REUTERS/Alexander Demianchuk