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Napolitano ready to lead US delegation to Sochi

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 6, 2014 at 10:47 pm •  Published: January 6, 2014

OAKLAND, California (AP) — Former U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is ready for the focus of the Sochi Olympics to shift from security concerns and terrorism threats to all the athletes who will be competing.

Yet Napolitano, who is leading the U.S. delegation at the games, fully understands the daunting task of organizing an event of this magnitude — especially in the wake of two suicide bombings last week in the Russian city of Volgograd, 400 miles (640 km) from Sochi.

"Obviously, the recent bombings are a deplorable act of terrorism and are to be condemned as terrorism," Napolitano said Monday. "In terms of the security for the games, we rely on the International Olympic Committee, we work with the (U.S.) State Department security division personnel on the ground, as well as the FBI.

"It's like security for any complex, large event. At a certain point, we're going to be able to start talking about the performance of our athletes, not the security lead up. Won't that be nice."

U.S. President Barack Obama's selections the American delegation send a clear message following Russia's passage of a new anti-gay law that has been harshly condemned by world leaders. The delegations for the opening and closing ceremonies include several openly gay athletes, including tennis player Billie Jean King, figure skater Brian Boitano and women's hockey player Caitlin Cahow.

For the first time since 2000, the United States will not send a president, former president, first lady or vice president to the Olympics.

"Clearly having some openly gay athletes is a symbol of the openness of American society and American sport," Napolitano said. "You have others in the delegation who have participated in a wide variety of civic and public service roles. It's a really great and diverse delegation. I'm very pleased to be able to lead it."

Russia's anti-gay law prompted some to call for the U.S. to boycott the Sochi Games altogether. Obama instead said more impact would be made by "gay and lesbian athletes bringing home the gold or silver or bronze."

As far as security issues, Napolitano points out there were similar concerns ahead of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

"I think in every Olympics after Munich that has been the case," she said.


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