Obama talks Olympics, says his relationship with Putin not 'icy'

McClatchy Washington BureauFebruary 7, 2014 


Security forces gather along a transportation route at the Olympic Park in Sochi, Russia Tuesday, February 4, 2014.


President Obama says the official US delegation to the Winter Olympics in Russia -- which includes openly gay athletes -- is aimed at making "it very clear that we do not abide by discrimination in anything, including discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation."

"One of the wonderful things about the Olympics is that you are judged by your merit," Obama told NBC's Olympics host, Bob Costas. "How good you are regardless of where you come from, what you look like, who you love and that I think is consistent with the spirit of the Olympics. It is certainly consistent with American values and we want to make sure the people understand that.”

And he told Costas that the reason he stayed away from the Games is that "the folks that ppl are actually interested in seeing are our incredible athletes," tweeted Jim Bell, executive director for NBC's Olympic broadcast.

Part of the interview -- conducted via satellite -- aired Thursday; the full interview airs tonight.

Obama said the U.S. is in "constant communication" with the Russians about security at the Games and is "consistently working with them to make sure that not only our athletes are safe, but everyone who’s attending these Games are safe.”

And he disputed that he and Russian President Vladimir Putin have an "icy" relationship.

"I wouldn’t call it icy," Obama said. "The truth of the matter is that when we are in meetings there are a lot of exchanges, there’s a surprising amount of humor, and a lot of give and take."

He said Putin has "always treated me with the utmost respect" and that he recognizes the importance to Russia of working with the United States.

"He does have a public style where he likes to sit back and look a little bored during the course of joint interviews," Obama said. " I think that’s where some of these perceptions come up. My sense is that’s part of his shtick back home politically as wanting to look like the tough guy. U.S. politicians have a different style. We tend to smile once in a while. The truth is, with any interaction between U.S. and Russian presidents, what’s going to be primary are the issues at stake, and where we have common interests we are going to work together.”

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