No less than anti-gay controversy-laden Russian President Vladimir Putin road tested the various sites erected for the upcoming Sochi Winter Olympics by playing a game of ice hockey.
This, as the Russian leader on Sunday lifted a sweeping ban concerning public protests in Sochi, Russia. The ban was effected on August 2013.
Wearing a red jersey bearing the number 11, Mr Putin fought against an all-star team that featured Olympic gold medallist Alexander Yakushev.
Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in a friendly ice hockey match in the Bolshoi Ice Palace near Sochi January 4, 2014. REUTERS/Alexei Nikolskiy/RIA Novosti/Kremlin
Alexander Lukashenko, Mr Putin's Belarussian counterpart, along with Sergei Shoigu, defence minister, were part of the red team. Also included was retired professional Pavel 'Russian Rocket' Bure. They all wore puffy ski jackets as they muscled through their opponents in the mountain resort of Krasnaya Polyana near Sochi.
Mr Putin is known as a man of action and is infamous for his many physical adventures, such driving an F1 car,guiding a flock of cranes in a hang glider as well as riding a horse shirtless.
Mr Putin is currently conducting a personal tour of Olympic venues a month before the Winter Games scheduled to start on February 7.
The inspection tours come as an apparent attempt to stabilise the country's security, following the recent double suicide bombings in the Russian city of Volgograd. Located just 400 miles from where the Sochi Games will be held, the Volgograd disaster claimed 34 lives last week.
"I don't think any major global event that brings people from all over the world together like that can possibly escape the threat of violence," Mitt Romney, failed U.S. presidential nominee, said on Sunday. Mr Romney led the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.
"Russia has a special problem given the threats that have been leveled," Mr Romney said, who rallied against U.S. President Barack Obama's re-election bid in 2012.
"There's no question about it. It's very, very frightening to have any kind of Olympic event on your national soil," he added.
Apart from security concerns, Russia also faces severe criticisms over its new anti-gay law, mounting costs and environmental concerns about the games.
On Sunday, Mr Putin relaxed an August 2013 order that prohibited public protests in Sochi, Russia.
Any planned demonstrations, however, will first require approval from the authorities. The lifting of the ban is within a limited timeframe only, starting Tuesday and continuing through the Olympic Games in February towards the Paralympic Games in March.
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