Adrienne Tyler Staff Writer @AdrienneTylerRussian President Vladimir Putin visited the U.S Olympic headquarters on Friday to talk about the Winter Games and the upcoming Russia-U.S. hockey game. Putin spent about half an hour at the USA House in Sochi’s Olympic Park talking with Larry Probst, U.S Olympic Committee chairman, and Scott Blackmun, CEO. He looked relaxed and even wore a “Happy Valentine’s Day from Team USA” pin on his lapel. “Putin was very gracious. What I would remember is it sends a strong message about the importance of sport to Russia”, Blackmun told The Associated Press. “We talked about mostly our impression of the games. He was very interested in knowing what we thought about the level of infrastructure, the level of services… we complimented him on the great operations so far," he added. This visit comes out as a contrast to the current state of political relations between Washington and Moscow over issues such as Edward Snowden, gay rights, and human rights. But all political issues were set aside during this visit, which seemed calculated to defuse tension and soften his image while reminding that he is the central force behind Russia’s games. “We’re sport people. We’re not political people. When a head of state called and asked if he could visit, we were delighted. We certainly didn’t get into any of the things that are deeper issues,” Blackmun told USA TODAY Sports. “All we talked about was sport, and that’s appropriate given that’s all we do." Putin praised the performances of U.S. athletes in the Winter Games, even though they have been struggling in some sports and not meeting expectations. “What I like about your team is that you have a strong participant in practically every discipline, and it’s an even team racing for medals," Putin said. After this visit, Putin visited the Canada Team. American and Canadian students who were there said the Russian leader is “not as scary” as they thought he would be. “I can’t speak for his personality whatsoever, but he shook my hand twice, so he must be friendly,” medical student Hannah Glinter of Canada said.
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