POLITICS: PennAve

Janet Napolitano, Billie Jean King tapped for U.S. Olympic delegation

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Politics,Sports,White House,Olympics,Barack Obama,Russia,PennAve,Janet Napolitano,Meghashyam Mali

Former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and openly gay athlete Billie Jean King will be part of the presidential delegation to the opening ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, the White House announced on Tuesday.

The delegation will not include President Obama or first lady Michelle Obama or any current members of the Cabinet, a snub for Russian President Vladimir Putin who has had an icy relationship with the administration.

Joining Napolitano, who is leading the delegation, and tennis star King, are U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, Obama’s deputy chief of staff for policy Robert Nabors, and figure skater Brian Boitano, an Olympic gold medalist.

Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns will lead the delegation to the closing ceremony, accompanied by McFaul, and Olympic medalists Bonnie Blair -- a speed skater-- ice hockey player Caitlin Cahow and skater Eric Heiden.

The inclusion of King comes as the Obama administration faces pressure from gay rights groups to take a tough stance against the Sochi games. Russian lawmakers in June passed anti-gay legislation banning “propaganda” about same-sex rights.

President Obama has rejected calls to boycott the games in protest, saying that while he was “offended” by the Russian anti-gay laws, barring U.S. participation would only hurt the American athletes who have trained for years to compete.

Tensions between Obama and Putin have also grown after Moscow granted temporary asylum to leaker Edward Snowden, who disclosed classified information on the National Security Agency's surveillance programs.

Snowden, who faces espionage and theft charges in the U.S., is currently in Russia, evading American law enforcement.

The first lady led the presidential delegation to the last Olympic Games, in London during the summer of 2012 and President Bush attended the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing.

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