The United States will not be sending top officials such as President Barack Obama or Vice President Joe Biden to the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, but instead will send UC President and former Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano to lead the U.S. delegation to the Sochi games.

The 2014 Winter Olympics, which will take place from Feb. 6 to Feb. 23, has been a source of controversy for organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Greenpeace, who claim that the International Olympic Committee and the Russian Government should be reprimanded for anti-LGBT laws — such as a bill passed by Russian President Vladimir Putin signed June 29, 2013 banning the promotions of information about “non-traditional” sexuality — along with other human rights concerns. Also absent from the Sochi Games will be French President Francois Hollande and German President Joachim Gauck.

But despite concern from human rights organizations and politicians who intend to boycott the Olympics in protest of Russia’s human rights record, UC Office of the President spokesperson Steve Montiel said Napolitano will be leading the U.S. delegation to show support for U.S. athletes.

“The President of the United States asked her to do this,” Montiel said. “She’s going for the athletes, and to represent us at the President’s request. It’s a great honor for the University of California.”

Two openly lesbian athletes, former Olympic tennis coach Billie Jean King and Olympic bronze and silver medalist in ice hockey Caitlin Cahow, will also be present at the Presidential Delegation to the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. According to Montiel, Napolitano’s participation in the Games will be in solidarity with its American LGBT athletes.

“President Napolitano is going for athletes,” Montiel said. “That’s what the Olympics are about — the athletes.”


A version of this article appeared on page 1 of January 6th’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.