Obama, many other western leaders staying away from Olympics

Feb. 6, 2014 at 3:58 PM

SOCHI, Russia, Feb. 6 (UPI) -- A number of prominent world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, are giving the Winter Olympics opening ceremony in Russia a pass.

Lena Adelsohn, the Swedish sports minister, last month called staying away from the ceremony a "political marker," the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday. Adelsohn and other leaders cite Russia's human rights record, including restrictions on freedom of speech and the recent law on homosexual propaganda.

The games will be the first in more than a decade with no sitting or former U.S. president, first lady or vice president in the audience. British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande are also staying away.

Some leaders will be there, including Chinese President Xi Jinping and Ban Ki-moon, secretary general of the United Nations. But Ban, in a speech to the International Olympic Committee, spoke of the importance of gay rights.

"We must all raise our voices against attacks on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex people," Ban said. "We must oppose the arrests, imprisonments and discriminatory restrictions they face."

The opening ceremony is scheduled for Friday evening in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

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