Putin's Pleasure at Olympic Judo
Bigger than normal photo pool at judo's gold medal rounds Thursday. Jean-Luc Rouge, secretary-general of the IJF, is in the foreground. (ATR/Panasonic Lumix)
(ATR) It might have been a record for a session of Olympic judo: 200 plus photographers lining the field of play Thursday at ExCeL. While they snapped the competition for medals in two events, the focus of attention was really Vladimir Putin.
The Russian president, himself a judoka and honorary president of the International Judo Federation, put in an appearance at Excel where he was able to cheer on countryman Tagir Khaibulaev to a gold medal in the 100kg event.
Putin sat alongside British Prime Minister David Cameron for about an hour, the two of them engaging in friendly chit chat that belied their differences over the situation in Syria. The two leaders had met earlier in the day at 10 Downing where they discussed their divergent views on the civil war.
The atmosphere in the sold-out hall of 5,000 spectators was electric, boisterous, but not because Putin was there. For the partisan home crowd, the main attraction was the play of judoka Gemma Gibbons. She delivered thrills when she won
a semifinal match and the crowd roared when Gibbons returned to the mat to win a silver medal, Great Britain’s first medal in the sport in 12 years.
British PM David Cameron talking to Russia President Vladimir Putin at judo's gold medal round Thursday. (ATR/Panasonic Lumix)
Putin celebrated Khaibulaev’s victory by leaving his seat to congratulate the athlete, producing a massive cluster of photographers to capture the moment.
president of the International Judo Federation, seems pleased with all the attention.
“It was a big celebration for judo. The biggest leader in the world - Mr. Vladimir Putin – as well as the British Prime Minister David Cameron, were with us for more than three hours. It was one of the best days of judo here in London,” said Vizer.
Prince Philip pays a surprise visit to judo medal round. (ATR/Panasonic Lumix)
Putin wasn't the only notable in the noisy hall. The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip, spent about 30 minutes at the event, accompanied by London 2012 vice chair Keith Mills.
Judo wraps up at the London Olympics Friday with bouts in the heavyweight classes.
Written and reported in London by Ed Hula.
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