President Obama not attending Sochi Olympics, sending openly gay athletes in U.S. delegation

By Daniel S Levine,

The White House announced the U.S. delegation to the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, which some see as a clear message that President Barack Obama does not approve of the country’s anti-gay laws. Neither Obama nor First Lady Michelle Obama will not be attending the Opening Ceremonies, sending openly gay athletes in their place.

“We are sending the message that the United States is a diverse place,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told the media on Wednesday, reports USA Today.

Carney said that the delegation isn’t supposed to be a direct rejection of Russia’s controversial laws against promoting homosexuality. He said that the president’s busy schedule just does not allow him to take the trip to Russia.

"This delegation represents that diversity, not because of the issues on which we disagree with Russia alone, but because of the remarkable accomplishments of every individual in that delegation,” Carney said, adding, “The president's schedule does not allow him to travel to Sochi.”

The delegation doesn’t include any high level members in the administration, though. Janet A. Napolitano, the former Secretary of Homeland Security and current University of California president, is leading the delegation, while Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns will be leading the delegation at the Closing Ceremonies, notes CNN.

Openly gay athletes will be part of both the Opening and Closing Ceremony delegations. Tennis legend Billie Jean King will be a part of the first delegation, while hockey player Caitlin Cahow will be going to the Closing Ceremony.

White House aide Robert L. Nabors and the U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael A. McFaul, are the last two members of the Opening Ceremony delegation on Feb. 7.

McFaul will also attend the Closing Ceremony on Feb. 23, along with speed skaters Bonnie Blair and Eric Heiden.

Vice President Joe Biden made the trip to Vancouver in 2010 for the Winter Olympics, while Michelle Obama did go to London last year for the Summer Olympics.

image: Wikimedia Commons


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