U.S. Names Sochi Delegation; Russia Draws Nazi Comparison; Rio Ceremony

(ATR) Barack Obama is sending a pair of openly gay athletes to Sochi to represent the United States ... American TV host compares Russia to Nazi Germany ... Talent sought for Rio 2016.

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 18:  U.S. President Barack Obama makes remarks as first lady Michelle Obama looks on following a meeting with a group of mothers in the Oval Office of the White House December 18, 2013 in Washington, DC. Obama met with the group of moms to discuss how health care reform effects their families.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 18: U.S. President Barack Obama makes remarks as first lady Michelle Obama looks on following a meeting with a group of mothers in the Oval Office of the White House December 18, 2013 in Washington, DC. Obama met with the group of moms to discuss how health care reform effects their families. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Obama Sends Message with Sochi Delegation

The United States government at the Sochi Olympics will be represented by a university president and two openly gay athletes.

Late Tuesday night, U.S. President Barack Obama announced the delegation for the U.S. government.

Janet Napolitano, the current president of the University of California, Berkley, will lead the delegation at the opening ceremony. She previously served as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. She will be joined by tennis great Billie Jean King, who is openly gay.

Secretary of State William Burns will lead the closing ceremony delegation. Caitlin Cahow, a former U.S. women’s ice hockey team member who is also gay, will be part of the closing ceremony team.

This will mark the first time since the 2000 Summer Olympics that no President, First Lady, Vice President, or former President will lead the U.S. Olympic delegation. The Sydney Olympics took place during the height of the U.S. Presidential campaign.

The White House did not mention the sexual preference of King or Cahow when announcing the delegation.

Cahow was quoted telling USA Today the decision by Obama is "obviously a statement," adding, "I think it’s an incredibly respectful one."

"Basically, the White House is highlighting Americans who know what it means to have freedoms and liberties under the constitution. That’s really what we’re representing in Sochi and it’s not at all different from what’s espoused in the spirit of Olympism."

Russia came under fire for its controversial law banning gay "propaganda."

The decision from the White House is the latest in a series of decisions from world leaders who have decided to skip the Sochi Olympics. Traditionally, heads of state or government attend the Olympics as a sign of diplomatic goodwill. Any decisions to skip the Games have been read as a rebuke of Russia’s policies.

U.S. Olympic Committee spokesman Patrick Sandusky said in a statement, "An impressive group of officials and iconic athletes will represent our government at the upcoming Olympic Winter Games in Sochi. We’re honored to assist their participation in any way that wecan and certain that America’s elite athletes will put on a great show."

American TV Host Compares Russia to Nazi Germany

One American late night host made an inflammatory comparison on Monday night to show his distaste for Russia’s anti-gay legislation.

Jay Leno of NBC’s Tonight Show was discussing the upcoming Sochi Olympics with a fellow NBC broadcaster, Meredith Vieira of the Today Show.

"I don’t know how [Russia’s law is] different from - I mean, this is how it started in Nazi Germany. ‘Oh, the Jews, let’s put them over here,’" Leno said. "It makes me uncomfortable."

Vieira had said, moments prior, that she has "mixed feelings" about traveling to Sochi for the Games, where she will host some of the network’s coverage.

"There was a lot of debate internally," she said. "A lot of us were [saying], ‘Do we want to go? Do we not want to go?’

"At the end of the day, it’s about the athletes, but I really hope that people demonstrate there."

Talent Sought for Rio Ceremonies

Rio 2016 ceremony producer Marco Balich tells Around the Rings that he’s searching for staff, partners and talent for the new company being created, Balich Worldwide Shows

"We want to establish a new standard in the delivery of Olympic Ceremony in the sign of transparency, cooperation of local creative entities, and with sustainable philosophy both from economical and ethical side," says Balich.

Balich says he’s also bidding on other projects around the world through Balich Worldwide Shows.

Noted ceremonies producer Ric Birch, meanwhile, has left Shanghai where he has worked for the past two years to move to Milan to work with Filmmaster. Birch, who has worked on previous Olympic Games with Balich and Filmmaster, holds the nickname "Master of Ceremonies".

Written by Ed Hula III, Nick Devlin, and Ed Hula

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