Obama to Skip Olympics, Send Gay Delegates

Napolitano to head up delegation as VP, first lady will also skip

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 18, 2013 7:14 AM CST | Updated Dec 18, 2013 7:55 AM CST

(Newser) – For the first time since 2000, neither the US president, first lady, vice president, nor a former president will be attending the Olympic Games. But the US is sending a delegation to Sochi—a delegation that includes two openly gay athletes, the AP reports, calling it "a clear message" to Russia about how the country treats gays and lesbians. The Washington Post calls it "a pointed snub," and notes that the US is also in conflict with Russia on a number of other issues, including foreign policy. Heading up the delegation? Recently departed Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano.

Tennis legend Billie Jean King will attend the opening ceremony, while hockey player Caitlin Cahow will attend the closing ceremony; both are gay. The White House didn't specifically mention Russia's anti-gay laws when announcing the delegation last night, but noted that the group "represents the diversity that is the United States." King, for her part, recently discussed Russia's anti-gay laws, telling USA Today in September that, "sometimes I think we need a John Carlos moment. I would hope the majority of the athletes would speak out. It's a great platform. I wish I was 21 again and in the Olympics." Now King will get her chance, and USA Today calls the president's choice "genius." It's not the only recent blow to the Sochi Games: The presidents of Germany and France are also skipping.

President Obama presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Billie Jean King, Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2009. King will attend the Sochi Olympics as a US delegate.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
President Obama shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg, Russia, Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013.   (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Pool)
President Obama shakes hands with Russia's President Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg, Russia on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013.   (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
In this June 13, 2013, file photo, Vice President Joe Biden, left, pats President Barack Obama, right, on the chest while he speaks at a reception in the East Room of the White House in Washington.   (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)
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For the first time since 2000, neither a sitting president, vice president, nor a first lady will head up the US delegation to the Olympic games. And the American press call that decision a direct snub to Russia.   (Newsy)

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