Obama snubs Russian government by refusing to attend Winter Olympics in Sochi

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Tomorrow marks the start of the 2014 Winter Olympics, which will take place in Sochi, Russia.  This event also marks the first time in over 20 years that neither a United States president, vice president, first lady nor cabinet member will be in the U.S. Olympic delegation.  President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and both of their wives declined invitations to the Sochi Olympics and will not be attending.  The motive behind this decision is to express Obama’s opinion on new Russian laws that alienate homosexuals.

“I just want to make very clear right now I do not think it’s appropriate to boycott the Olympics,” said President Barack Obama in a public statement.  “Nobody is more offended than me by some of the anti-gay and lesbian legislation that you’ve been seeing in Russia.  I’ve spoken out against that not just with respect to Russia, but a number of other countries [that] we have a strong disagreement on the issue.”

To further define his position on the matter, Obama has appointed former champions and openly gay athletes Billie Jean King and Caitlin Cahow to represent the U.S. in its delegation.  For these games, the athletes from the U.S. will be representing the freedoms and liberties granted to all citizens in the U.S. that gay communities do not receive in Russia.

“I think our presence is really important,” said King.  “I take this very seriously.  The responsibility to stand and possibly speak for those who don’t have a voice runs deep.”

Obama, along with several other political figures across the globe, have taken action to fight Russian policies regarding homosexuality, which have gotten stricter over the past two years.  In the U.S., lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens of states such as California and New York have the freedom to adopt children and marry the same sex, but LGBT people in other countries face much stricter conditions.

“In a society that is progressing toward equality, it is only natural that Russia’s new policies are facing opposition,” said sophomore Asher Gevisser. “It is good to see that countries across the world are taking stronger actions against the inequality within Russia.”

In addition to not receiving the same rights as heterosexual couples, Russian President Vladimir Putin passed a federal law in June 2013 that prohibits pro-gay propaganda.  As of June 29, 2013, the Russian government outlawed gay rights marches and demonstrations as well as the right to talk about gay rights or promote homosexuality in front of minors.

According to the Levada Center independent pollster, a survey from 2013 showed that 74 percent of Russians said homosexuality should not be accepted by society members.  These new laws have led to controversy.

“It is great that Obama, while representing the U.S., is showing a greater acceptance toward the gay community and further defining the path toward acceptance,”  said sophomore Andrew Isaac.

In addition to being the center of major international controversy, the Sochi Games mark the first time that Russia has hosted the Olympics since the Soviet Union disbanded.  Although President Obama and other United States political figures will not be attending, King and Cahow will represent the U.S. to ensure the voice of Obama and the rest of the country is heard.

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