President Vladimir Putin had just watched his country’s ice dance team take Russia’s first gold of the Sochi Olympics. What better way to celebrate than by heading to one of the top party venues in town?
Putin headed over to the Holland Heineken House briefly Sunday night and even cozied up to Dutch gold medal winning speedskater Ireen Wust, who was there to be honoured by hundreds of fans for her victory earlier in the day in the 3,000-meter race. She is the first openly gay athlete to win a medal at these Games.
“I got a cuddle from him,” Wust told Dutch national broadcaster NOS. “He congratulated me and asked if everything was okay in Russia and I congratulated him on [Russian speedskater] Olga Graf, of course, for her third place [in the 3,000 metres]. He was happy to see me, but then he had to leave again. But I cuddled him.”
There was no mention of her sexuality or Russia’s anti-gay laws.
Holland Heineken House is renowned at recent Olympic Games as a great place for a party, drawing thousands of fans with a cocktail of live music, the chance to see a Dutch medal winner and perhaps a couple of beers.
A series of incidents have strained relations between the Netherlands and Russia in recent months, including a diplomat being arrested by police in The Hague and Russia’s detention of a Dutch-flagged protest ship and its crew. But there was no sign of any lingering tensions as Putin made his way out of the house and spoke to a reporter in English.
“Fantastic,” he said of his brief visit. “Very good. Good people and good results ... good party.”