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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 20 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 51
Take that, Russia! - U.S. Sochi delegation includes LGBT athletes
Section One
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Take that, Russia! - U.S. Sochi delegation includes LGBT athletes

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

In what is widely being interpreted as a deliberate snub to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the White House announced that the official U.S. delegation to the Sochi Olympics will include two openly Lesbian athletes.

Tennis legend Billy Jean King, figure-skating gold medalist Brian Boitano, and two-time Olympic medalist in ice hockey Caitlin Cahow, will be among the dignitaries representing the U.S. at the Olympics opening ceremonies on February 7, 2014.

While ceremonial delegations of this kind are usually headed by heads of state or their deputies, the U.S. delegation will be led by former Secretary of Homeland Security and current President of the University of California Janet Napolitano. (Vice President Joe Biden led the U.S. delegation to the Vancouver Olympics in 2010, and First Lady Michelle Obama headed the delegation to London in 2012.)

National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden said that the President's schedule will not allow him to attend the games.

'The U.S. Delegation to the Olympic Games represents the diversity that is the United States,' she added. 'All our delegation members are distinguished by their accomplishments in government service, civic activism, and sports. We are proud of each and every one of them and think they will serve as great ambassadors of the United States to the Olympic Games.'

King, a personal friend of President Obama, said she was honored to be chosen.

'I am equally proud to stand with the members of the LGBT community in support of all athletes who will be competing in Sochi and I hope these Olympic Games will indeed be a watershed moment for the universal acceptance of all people,' she said.

Now 70, King added she regrets not being '21 again and in the Olympics' herself, but hopes athletes will follow the examples of John Carlos and Tommie Smith, who defiantly raised their fists in a Black Power salute at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City.

'I think there's watershed moments, benchmarks,' King said. 'I would hope the majority of the athletes would speak out. It's a great platform.'

Cahow, who won medals at the 2006 and 2010 Winter Olympics, told USA Today that a statement was being made in the composition of the delegation, but that it was 'an incredibly respectful one.'

'Basically, the White House is highlighting Americans who know what it means to have freedoms and liberties under the constitution,' she said.

LGBT organizations also responded with enthusiasm to the appointments.

'It's a positive sign to see openly Gay representatives in the delegation,' said HRC spokesperson Michael Cole-Schwartz. 'Hopefully, it sends a message to the Russian people and the rest of the world that the United States values the civil and human rights of LGBT people.'

All Out spokesperson Andre Banks added that President Obama was sending out a strong message to Putin. 'What it's doing is showing the true power of the Olympics, the ability to move people, to change people's minds and open them up to new ways of thinking. The delegation is shining a light on the values of the Olympics,' he said. Brian Boitano, who previously shied away from discussing his sexual orientation, came out on December 19.

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