Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Politics

President Obama and Vice-President Biden will skip Winter Olympics
By Brody Levesque | WASHINGTON -- The White House announced Tuesday that President Barack Obama nor Vice-President Joe Biden would attend the opening of the 2014 Olympic games in Sochi, Russia on February 7.  Instead former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who now heads the University of California system, will lead the official U. S. delegation.
The official party also includes Michael McFaul, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, Robert Nabors, presidential deputy chief of staff for policy, Billie Jean King, who is openly lesbian and a member of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, and Brian Boitano, an Olympic gold medalist in figure skating. 
According to a White House spokesperson, the president's schedule is such that he'll be unable to attend.
"President Obama is extremely proud of our U.S. athletes and looks forward to cheering them on from Washington as they compete in the best traditions of the Olympic spirit." 
He added;
"The U.S. Delegation to the Olympic Games represents the diversity that is the United States. 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."
The White House also noted that the U. S. will be represented at the closing ceremonies on February 23, by Deputy U. S. Secretary of State William Burns, Ambassador McFaul and Bonnie Blair, a five-time Olympic gold medalist and one-time bronze medalist in speed skating. Openly lesbian Caitlin Cahow, an Olympic silver medalist and bronze medalist in women’s ice hockey, and Dr. Eric Heiden, a five-time Olympic gold medalist in speed skating will also attend the closing ceremonies. 
Until yesterday the White House had no comment regarding the U. S. official delegation and White House press secretary Jay Carney had declined to comment on the delay of the announcement when asked by reporters. 
A foreign policy analyst told LGBTQ Nation that the absence of an appearance by a ranking member of the Obama administration including the fact that no current members of Obama's cabinet will attend either, underscores the continuing strain relations between the two nations.
In 2012, the White House had announced that First Lady Michelle Obama would lead the U.S. delegation to the Summer Olympics in London, UK more than four months prior to the start of those games. Both the Vice President and Dr. Jill Biden had attended the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and in 2008, then President George W. Bush attended the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, China.
The anti-gay laws passed in the last year by Russian lawmakers and signed into law by Russian President Vladimir Putin had been a factor in the decision by the president not to attend a White House source said. Passage of those laws has also led in part to recent announcements by French President Fran├žois Hollande and Germany's President Joachim Gauck that they would not attend the games.  
The White House press secretary in the past few weeks has reinforced U.S. criticism of Russia's anti-LGBT laws on multiple occasions and on Friday told reporters;
"We've been very clear in our views about both the laws in place and the issues in Russia surrounding LGBT rights, and our expectations of Russia when it comes to conducting the Olympics."

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