Stop using Games for cheap political gain: IOC chief

Tue Feb 4, 2014 12:28pm EST
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By Karolos Grohmann

SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - The Sochi Winter Olympics are a purely sporting event which should not be used by uninvited guests to score political points, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said on Tuesday.

In a clear reference to world leaders who publicly refused to attend the first Winter Games in Russia, Bach said in an address in the host Russian city that some of them had not even been invited.

"In the extreme we had to see a few politicians whose contribution to the fight for a good cause consisted of publicly declining invitations they had not even received," Bach told an audience which included Russian President Vladimir Putin.

French President Francois Hollande, British Prime Minister David Cameron and German President Joachim Gauck, among others, announced they would not attend the February 7-23 Games without providing a reason.

The United States, which is sending lower-ranking officials that in recent Olympics, has in its delegation to Sochi three openly gay members including former tennis champion Billie Jean King.

Russia has faced criticism over its human rights record and a recent anti-gay propaganda law which opponents say curtails the rights of homosexuals in the country.

U.S. President Barack Obama will not attend the Sochi Games.

President George W. Bush visited Beijing during the 2008 Olympics, first lady Michelle Obama headed the U.S. delegation to the 2012 London Games, while Vice President Joe Biden performed that role at the 2010 Vancouver winter Olympics.   Continued...

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach arrives to attend a news conference in Sochi, February 23 2014. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard