Putin is relishing the spotlight; keeps IOC 'very happy'
The negativity has melted away as sporting action has grabbed the headlines at Sochi.
Russian President Vladimir Putin seems to be everywhere at the Sochi Olympics these days, whether it is the competition venues, team headquarters or even posing for pictures with sports fans and volunteers.
The leader's presence at Russia's first Winter Olympics was always going to be top news given the country's human rights record, its frosty ties with the United States and the controversial anti-gay propaganda law.
Image: Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks with Olympic Village Mayor Elena Isinbaeva.
Photographs: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images
His frequent appearances are doing the Games good
And with his official plane parked on a runway just a stone's throw from the venues and visible from the nearby streets, Putin is relishing the spotlight.
Put has attended ice hockey, biathlon and figure skating events and as far as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is concerned, his frequent appearances are doing the Games only good.
Image: Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, greets Yevgeny Plushenko.
Photographs: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters
'It is good to have the support of the head of state of the country'
"He is clearly a big sports fan which adds to that (presence)," IOC spokesman Mark Adams told reporters on Monday. "It is good to have the support of the head of state of the country and we are very happy for his support."
Ever since Sochi was surprisingly awarded the Olympics in 2007 following a powerful address by Putin himself to IOC members at their session in Guatemala, the Games at the Black Sea resort have been viewed with suspicion.
Organisers had to build every venue from scratch and the announcement that total investment would exceed $50 billion triggered further negative headlines.
Putin had personally overseen preparations, publicly sacked top officials and wooed the IOC during its inspection visits over the years.
Image: Russian President Vladimir Putin walks through the arena after the Flower Ceremony for the Team Figure Skating.
Photographs: Darren Cummings/Pool/Getty Images
'The Sochi Games are his Games'
For him the Games were more important as a political and diplomatic tool it seemed than a purely sporting event.
Adams said he could only compare his presence in Sochi anecdotally with the London 2012 Games where both Queen Elizabeth and Prime Minister David Cameron put in appearances.
These were, however, far more infrequent than the Russian leader's.
So were Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and while Silvio Berlusconi, at the time Italian Prime Minister, was hardly to be seen at the 2006 Turin winter Games.
"Putin is at the top. The Sochi Games are his Games," a senior Russian sports official told Reuters on condition of anonymity. "He is in complete control."
Image: Russian President Vladimir Putin,left, and US Olympic Committee chairman Larry Probst.
Photographs: Marianna Massey/Reuters