The White House on Tuesday announced
that neither President Barack Obama nor Vice President Joe Biden will
attend the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia next year.
The United States also won't send a
former president or the first lady to the Sochi Games.
Instead, a presidential delegation,
which includes two openly gay professional athletes, will represent
“It's a positive sign to see openly
gay representation in the delegation,” Michael Cole-Schwartz,
spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest
LGBT rights advocate, told
the AP. “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.”
Gay rights activists have urged leaders
to boycott the games in protest of the nation's “gay propaganda”
law, which prohibits public demonstrations of support for the LGBT
Tennis legend Billie Jean King is part
of the five-member delegation that will attend the opening ceremony
on February 7.
“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,” King
Hockey player Caitlin Cahow, a member
of Boston Blades, is the other openly gay representative to the
delegation. She'll attend the February 23 closing ceremony with four
Leading the delegation will be former
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
In August, Obama stated that he was
opposed to a boycott of the Winter Olympics, saying
that it was “not appropriate.”
President Francois Hollande and German
President Joachin Gauck have also announced plans to stay away.
Russian President Vladimir Putin last
Russia's anti-gay law as “democratic.”