Obama: ‘I do not think it’s appropriate to boycott the Olympics’

Jacquelyn Martin, AP
President Barack Obama during a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, Aug. 9, 2013. Staff Reports

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Friday said he does not support boycotting the Olympics in Sochi due to Russia‘s “gay propadanda” law, and instead said that he hopes to see openly gay athletes winning medals at the Winter Games.

“I do not think it’s appropriate to boycott the Olympics,” Obama said in a news conference, the second time this week he remarked on the controversy surrounding the Russian law, and growing concern for the safety of LGBT athletes and spectators.

Jacquelyn Martin, AP
President Barack Obama during a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, Aug. 9, 2013.

“Nobody is more offended than me by some of the anti-gay and lesbian legislation than you’ve been seeing in Russia, but as I said just this week, I’ve spoken out against that not just with respect to Russia but a number of other countries where we continue to do work with them but we have a strong disagreement on this issue,” Obama said.

“One thing I’m really looking forward to is maybe some gay and lesbian athletes bringing home the gold or silver or bronze, which I think would go a long way in rejecting the kind of attitudes were seeing there,” he added. “And if Russia doesn’t have gay or lesbian athletes, it’ll probably make their team weaker.”

The U.S. Olympic Committee welcomed Obama’s comments saying a boycott would be wrong.

“The Games bring people together. They unite the world and break down barriers. The Games demonstrate how it is possible to compete fiercely but respectfully,” Scott Blackmun, chief executive officer of the USOC, said in a statement. “As the president suggested, the diverse group of athletes representing our nation next winter makes us a stronger and a better Team USA.”

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Earlier this week, appearing on NBC’s “The Tonight Show,” Obama said he has “no patience for countries that try to treat gays and lesbians and transgendered persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them.”

Russia’s contentious law was signed by President Vladimir Putin in late June, imposing fines on individuals accused of spreading “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” to minors, and imposes penalties for those who express these views online or in the news media.

Gay pride rallies also are banned, as are public display of affection, including holding hands, between persons of the same gender.

Russian lawmakers have issued conflicting statements as to whether the country will enforce the law when it hosts the 2014 Winter Olympics, but Obama said he believes Putin and Russia have “a big stake in making sure the Olympics work.”

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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