Irina Rodnina, the Russian former ice skater who lit the Olympic flame in Sochi, is going for the gold medal of backhanded apologies. Yesterday, Rodnina, who now represents Vladimir Putin’s party in the Russian Parliament, apologized for not denouncing a Photoshopped image of the Obamas that was posted to her Twitter account, supposedly by a hacker. On Tuesday, Rodnina said she’s so not racist that she doesn’t even understand why a photo of a black president staring longingly at a banana is offensive, and suggested those who got upset might be crazy. “People react to things in different ways. To me, and I’m just a normal person, a banana doesn’t arouse any political or any other kind of emotions,” Rodnina told the BBC. “If someone reacts negatively to pictures of bananas, then perhaps we should stop eating lots of other kinds of food.”
Rodina went on to explain that the derogatory comparison of dark-skinned people to monkeys is completely alien to Russians. So, apparently this was all just a cultural misunderstanding – except for the fact that Russian fans throwing bananas at black athletes has been a widely discussed problem in recent years.
“In Russia we never encountered such concerns in the past. Because, historically, here there were virtually no native representatives of the Negro race,” Rodina responded when her interviewer noted that it’s a well-known insult in Russia. “The only black people were those who came to study in our country. But bananas were imported from other countries. So we never made a connection. If a player reacts like that, that is their perception of things. It means you have this problem inside you, that makes you feel humiliated.”
And anyway, this is just one of those #SochiProblems being perpetuated by jealous Westerners. “The Western media wanted to report something bad about Russia,” she said, “but there was nothing bad to write about, because the opening ceremony was so breathtaking. I gave the media something to write about.”