White House won't say its Olympics delegation sends Russia a message

McClatchy Washington BureauDecember 18, 2013 

The White House is sending a delegation to the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia that includes two openly gay athletes -- but Press Secretary Jay Carney refused Wednesday to say whether that was meant as a slap at Russia's recent anti-gay law.

"I think that this delegation represents the diversity that is the United States," Carney said. "Every member of that delegation is extremely accomplished, either in government service or in civic activism, or, most especially, in sports."

He said Obama was "very proud of the delegation and the diversity it represents, and he looks forward, as every American does, to the competition and to the effort that American athletes will demonstrate when they compete in Sochi."

Gay advocates had urged the administration to send gay allies to the games to protest the recent anti-gay propaganda law and hailed the administration for including two openly gay athletes.

Carney also wouldn't say whether the exclusion of Obama or Biden -- the first time in seven Olympics that there's been no president, no member of the first family, no vice president or former president leading the U.S. delegation -- was a snub to the Russian government.

Carney said Obama is "extremely proud of our athletes and looks forward to cheering them on from Washington."

He said Obama's schedule doesn't allow him to travel to Sochi for the games, "but in his stead, he has asked a high-level delegation led by former DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano and featuring former Olympian Brian Boitano and former Olympic coach Billie Jean King to represent the United States at the Opening Ceremonies, to represent the government. Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns and former Olympians Caitlin Cahow, Eric Heiden, and Bonnie Blair will represent the U.S. at the closing ceremonies."

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