U.S. Olympic delegation draws widespread reaction

Tennis legend Billie Jean King speaks at her 70th birthday party celebration organized by the Women's Sports Foundation at the Museum of Art and Design on Nov. 6 in New York City.
(Brad Barket / Getty Images for Women’s Sports Foundation)
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President Obama’s decision to send two openly gay athletes to the 2014 Sochi Olympics as part of the U.S. delegation continued to reverberate Wednesday.

Christine Brennan, a columnist for USA Today, called the move “genius.” The Human Rights First organization referred to it as a “positive message.”

On the other end of the spectrum, veteran Olympic reporter Alan Abrahamson criticized Obama for playing politics in the sports realm and potentially jeopardizing an American bid for the 2024 Games.


The choice of delegates is seen as a strong response to recent Russian legislation that threatens prosecution for anyone who promotes “nontraditional sexual relations” in the presence of minors. Critics worldwide have spoken out against the law, saying it effectively bans events such as gay rights parades.

The U.S. Olympic Committee issued a predictably cautious statement on the matter.

“An impressive group of officials and iconic athletes will represent our government at the upcoming Olympic Winter Games in Sochi,” spokesman Patrick Sandusky said. “We’re honored to assist their participation in any way that we can and are certain that America’s elite athletes will put on a great show.”

The U.S. will send tennis great Billie Jean King and hockey player Caitlin Cahow — both openly gay — along with several government officials. The delegation’s other athletes include figure skating gold medalist Brian Boitano and speed skaters Eric Heiden and Bonnie Blair .

Sochi will mark the first time since 2000 that the U.S. delegation will not include a president, former president, vice president or first lady.

The French and German presidents had previously announced that they will not attend the Games.



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