Tennis great Billie Jean King will be one of two openly gay athletes in the U.S. delegation at the Sochi Winter Olympics.
For the first time since 2000, however, the United States will not send a president, former president, first lady or vice president to the Games. Russia has come under international criticism for passing national laws banning “gay propaganda.” The White House did not specifically address the Russian laws in making its announcement on December 17. But spokesman Shin Inouye said the delegation “represents the diversity that is the United States” and that President Barack Obama “knows they will showcase to the world the best of America — diversity, determination and teamwork.” The White House also announced Obama’s schedule will not allow him to attend the Games. France and Germany are among the other countries which will not send their presidents to Sochi for the Games next February. Earlier this year, Obama rejected the idea of a U.S. boycott of the Olympics despite a number of differences with Russia, including the anti-gay law. Analysts say this move, however sends a strong signal. In 2010, Vice President Joe Biden led the delegation, and in 2012, first lady Michelle Obama held the honor. This year’s group is led by former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. Others in the delegation include U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul.The International Olympic Committee, (IOC), has also come under criticism for awarding the games to Russia. Earlier this month, IOC President Thomas Bach said Russia would set up public protest zones in Sochi for “people who want to express their opinion or want to demonstrate for or against something.” Bach had previously said he’d received assurances from Russian President Vladimir Putin that gays will not be discriminated against in Sochi. – Eurasia Review