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SBD Global/December 19, 2013/Olympics

President Obama Won't Attend Sochi Games, Selects Two Gay Athletes For U.S. Delegation

The White House announcement on Tuesday that President Barack Obama, VP Joe Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama will not attend the Sochi Games is "a pointed snub by an administration that is feuding with Russian leaders on a range of foreign policy and human rights issues," according to David Nakamura of the WASHINGTON POST. The U.S. delegation will be led by former Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, and it "will include two openly gay athletes -- tennis legend Billie Jean King and ice hockey player Caitlin Cahow -- in an apparent bid to highlight opposition to Russia’s anti-gay laws" (WASHINGTON POST, 12/18). Cahow said, "It's obviously a statement that's being made, but I think it's an incredibly respectful one. Basically, the White House is highlighting Americans who know what it means to have freedoms and liberties under the Constitution. That's really what we're representing in Sochi and it's not at all different from what's espoused in the spirit of Olympism" (USA TODAY, 12/18). REUTERS' Mark Felsenthal reported the White House said that the president's schedule "did not allow him to travel to Sochi, and declined to say whether it was sending any message through its selection of the delegation." White House spokesperson Josh Earnest said, "The U.S. delegation to the Olympic Games represents the diversity that is the United States. All our delegation members are distinguished by their accomplishments in government service, civic activism and sports" (REUTERS, 12/18)
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