SOCHI, February 15, 1:42 /ITAR-TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin may be present at the Russia-USA ice-hockey match in men’s preliminary round (Group A) on Saturday to cheer for the national team. The match starts at the Bolshoy Ice Dome at 16:30 Moscow time.
A day earlier, on Friday evening, the Russian head of state visited the American House in the Olympic Village. Putin told the U.S. sport officials that he might be present at Saturday’s match.
“Naturally, we are going to support our athletes. But we know how many of them play for the NHL. Let me assure you that we have many fans who love and know American ice-hockey players. Anyway, all of us are going to enjoy the game,” Putin said. Asked whether he could be seen at the stadium on Saturday, the president replied, “Perhaps, I will come.”
Traditionally, the Americans have been inconvenient rivals for Russian ice-hockey players at Olympic tournaments. In Soviet days, the Americans took the upper hand twice in matches for the first place. This time, Russia and the USA will face each other in the preliminary round. Though it is impossible to predict the outcome, Putin made it clear that he hoped to see Russia play vs. Canada in the final.
Apart his great achievements in judo wrestling and Alpine skiing, Putin has taken a great liking in ice-hockey in recent years. So, he is going assess the Russian team’s performance tonight not only as a high-ranking but also experienced and knowing fan.
The Bolshoy Ice Dome has 12,000 seats. Last Thursday, Russia defeated Slovenia in an ice-hockey match 5:2, while the U.S. beat Slovakia 7:1.