The USA House in Sochi received a surprise visitor on Friday: Vladimir Putin.
The Russian president's unexpected, though not unplanned, appearance at the house where athletes and their families meet was a positive sign for U.S.-Russia relations. The two nations had been at diplomatic odds ever since President Obama declined to attend the games and instead sent in his stead a delegation that included several openly gay American athletes. The move was widely viewed as a passive-aggressive shot at Russia's anti-gay propaganda law, and drew criticism from the International Olympic Committee for a perceived politicization of the Sochi Games.
But politics weren't the issue when Putin visited the USA House; small-talk goodwill and drinks were. Putin's team informed the USA House on Thursday night of the president's impending arrival, and security forces checked out the building for several hours prior to Putin's appearance. One security team member even taste-tested the brownies, wine and Budweiser planned for the president.
Security teams cleared out a small courtyard for a reception, where Putin met with several members of the U.S. Olympic Committee and athletes. Putin was given several gift bags, which included Nike jackets for medalists and a special Valentine's Day Olympic pin.
No word on whether the president will be sampling any McDonald's for the full American experience.
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