Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, greets International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach at an event welcoming IOC members ahead of the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics at the Rus Hotel, in Sochi, Russia, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Presidential Press Service)
SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Stroking a Persian leopard sprawled on his lap, tough-guy President Vladimir Putin showed his softer side Tuesday as he prepared to welcome the world to his budget-busting Winter Olympics.
Basking in the glow of support from International Olympic Committee Chairman Thomas Bach, Putin began his stay at the Sochi Games by promoting a cuddly image, visiting a group of endangered Persian leopard cubs born last summer in the mountains above the Black Sea resort.
“We’ve decided to restore the population of the Persian leopard because of the Olympic Games,” Putin said. “Let’s say that because of the Olympic Games, we have restored parts of the destroyed nature.”
Putin entered the cage and petted the leopard on the head. “We liked each other,” he said.
Some journalists accompanying him weren’t so lucky. They apparently upset the big cat, which scratched one of them on the hand and bit another on the knee, Russian news agencies reported.
In Putin’s presence later, Bach used an IOC Login to read more