A senior level Italian IOC member criticized the United States' decision to send several openly gay athletes in its official delegation for the Sochi Games, the AP reported.
“It's absurd that a country like that sends four lesbians to Russia just to demonstrate that in their country gay rights have [been established],” said Mario Pescante, the head of the IOC's International Relations Commission. “The Games should not be an occasion and a stage to promote rights that sports support daily.”
Pescante's comments apparently came at an Olympic committee meeting in Milan on Wednesday.
He later clarified his comments to the AP via telephone, saying, “I just wanted to make the point not to let politics interfere with the Olympics.”
The delegates – chosen by President Obama – include tennis player Billie Jean King, figure skater Brian Boitano and hockey player Caitlin Cahow. Perhaps as an even stronger indictment against Russia's recent law banning the dissemination of gay propaganda, Sochi marks the first Olympics since 2000 where a president, vice president or a first lady won't accompany the delegation.
Per the White House, President Obama's schedule won't allow him to attend the Games, but “[President Obama] knows [the games] will showcase to the world the best of America – diversity, determination and teamwork.”
Pescante said he would try to address political protests at the upcoming IOC session in Sochi.
“There are always going to be issues wherever the games are held, but the best way to combat these issues is by letting the games unfold and sending thousands of journalists to these places to report on what is going on there,” Pescante said.
Ironically, news broke on Tuesday that an American journalist, who had been reporting from Russia since the 1970s (and had been critical of the government), was barred from the country. Russia's foreign ministry claimed David Satter was guilty of a “gross violation” of immigration rules, while Satter responded, calling the Russian authorities “dishonest and undignified.”