In a special interview with NBC prior to the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics in Sochi/Russia, when President Barack Obama was asked by the interviewer if there is any personal rift or animosity between him and President Vladimir Putin, Obama smiled benevolently, then said that Putin’s public style of sitting back and looking a little bored during their joint interviews is just his “schtick.” Have we ever had an American president use this word before in reference to another head of state? For the uninitiated, “schtick” is a yiddish word for “a comic mannerism or eccentricity.” Was this a coded message from President Obama that, whatever else Russia decides to do in the Middle East, America will always be Israel’s friend and ally?
In any case, as NBC coverage of the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics in Sochi/Russia continued on Friday night, with Putin sitting on the stage behind him, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said: “Olympic Games are always about building bridges to bring people together. Olympic Games are never about erecting walls to keep people apart. Olympic Games are a sports festival embracing human diversity in great unity. Therefore, I say to the political leaders of the world — thank you for supporting your athletes. They are the best ambassadors of your country. Please respect their Olympic Message of goodwill, of tolerance, of excellence and of peace. Have the courage to address your disagreements in a peaceful, direct political dialogue and not on the backs of the athletes.”
To his credit, Putin did not jump up and rip off his shirt and smack down the IOC president for daring to hint at Russia’s new legislation against gays and lesbians. Putin stuck to his “schtick” and merely looked bored even as the whole world watched Vladimir Putin’ On The Ritz. Most impressively, he managed to put on a straight face when all the ephemeral Russian ballet dancers danced gayly to Tchaikovsky’s music—Tchaikovsky, a homosexual who was well-known for cruising the streets of St. Petersburg at night in search of male partners. And, I imagine, back in the day (or night), a nut cracking good time was had by all.
In his State of the Union address earlier this month, President Obama also referred to the issue of diversity in America, and lack of diversity in Russia, and how everyone in America will be watching proudly as “the red, white and blue bring home the gold.” At the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico, during their award ceremonies, our African-American athletes raised their black-gloved fists in proud solidarity. What will our LGBT athletes do when it is their moment in Sochi? In recent years, the LGBT community has reclaimed the use of the word “queer.” Isn’t it time now to reclaim our limp wrists? Wouldn’t be wondrous to see our LGBT athletes dancing lightly around the podium in their loafers, then claiming their medals and raising their limp wrists? Will Vladimir Putin be able to stick to his “schtick” when that mighty moment comes?