Vladimir Putin made something of a surprise appearance on Friday at the U.S. Olympic Committee's headquarters in Sochi, where he made some (I can only assume) awkward small talk with American officials and NBC executives. USA Today's Nancy Armour was there to document the unannounced stop at what's known as the USA House, which serves as a meeting place for American athletes and their families during the games:
Though Putin's visit was kept low-key, visitors to the house realized something was up when Russian security members camped out in the building's courtyard for several hours Friday afternoon. The head of Putin's security even tasted the drinks that were to be used –red and white wine, Budweiser beer and water – and sampled the cookies and brownies. Visitors were kept away from the area, without being told why.
Putin arrived at 6:40 p.m. local time in a black limousine with a Russian flag, and was greeted at the door by [USOC CEO Scott] Blackmun, USOC chairman Larry Probst and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak. Putin shook hands with Blackmun and Probst and was escorted into the house by USOC chief marketing officer Lisa Baird, .... He then joined Blackmun and Probst in the courtyard, sitting between the two of them on a couch with a big blue blanket with a red USOC logo.
If you're wondering, Putin opted for red wine. "The wine is good," he said.
The trip was clearly an attempt to defuse some existing tension between Russia and the United States. President Obama opted against traveling to Sochi for the games and instead sent a delegation dominated by former athletes who are gay—a not-so-subtle protest of Russia's state-sanctioned homophobia.