WASHINGTON — Billie Jean King will attend the closing ceremony of the
Sochi Olympics in Russia.
King, who didn’t travel to the opening ceremony because of her mother’s death,
will join American speed skaters Bonnie Blair and Eric Heiden on Feb. 23 as part
of President Barack Obama’s official U.S. delegation.
King called it a “privilege” to attend.
“I will use this trip to honor the memory of my mother and to further my
mission of equality,” King said in a statement to The Associated Press. “I am
thankful to President Obama for including me and I look forward to supporting
the men and women of Team USA in Sochi.”
Russia has been widely criticized for passing a national law last year that
banned gay “propaganda” to minors.
King and two other openly gay athletes _ Brian Boitano and Caitlin Cahow _ were
selected for the delegation at the opening ceremony. Obama said it showed the
U.S. doesn’t make distinctions based on sexual orientation.
Cahow, a member of the U.S. women’s hockey team that won the bronze at the 2006
Turin Olympics and silver at the 2010 Vancouver Games, said she experienced no
backlash in Russia, adding that everyone has been “unbelievable welcoming.”
The White House said Friday the closing ceremony delegation will be headed by
Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and includes Michael McFaul, the U.S.
ambassador to Russia. The delegation will attend athletic competitions and meet
with U.S. athletes.
Blair won five Olympic gold medals and a bronze in speed skating, and Eric
Heiden earned five Olympic golds.
King was selected in December to help lead the delegation. Two days before the
Feb. 7 opening ceremony in Sochi, King announced she wouldn’t attend because of
her mother’s failing health.
Betty Moffitt, 91, died at her home in Arizona on the day of the opening
ceremony, with King and brother Randy Moffitt at her side.