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Russians downplay Obama's Olympic absence

December 24, 2013|By David Wharton
  • President Obama plays golf at Mid-Pacific Country Club in Kailua, Hawaii, on Monday.
President Obama plays golf at Mid-Pacific Country Club in Kailua, Hawaii,… (Jewel Samad / Getty Images )

A top Russian political and sports official said Tuesday that President Obama's decision not to attend the 2014 Sochi Olympics will have no real effect on the competition.

"Obama can't come? Well, he hasn't been to a single Games during his time in the presidency," Alexander Zhukov was quoted as saying by the RIA Novosti news service. "It doesn't reflect on the quality of the Games in any way."

In addition to Obama, the presidents of France and Germany are also expected to skip the Olympics.

Their absences add further emphasis to widespread criticism of Russia's anti-gay propaganda law, which effectively bans gay pride events and the discussion of "nontraditional sexual relations" in the presence of minors.

It is true that Obama has never attended an Olympics as president. He sent First Lady Michelle Obama to the 2012 London Games.

But in a move that many see as a dig at the Russians, he included three openly gay athletes -- tennis great Billie Jean King, figure skater Brian Boitano and hockey player Caitlin Cahow -- on the U.S. delegation.

“The point is the competition and not that 20 or 30 leaders come to the opening ceremony,” said Zhukov, who is head of the Russian Olympic Committee and a close political ally of President Vladimir Putin.

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