Skip to main content

Billie Jean King to attend Sochi Olympics closing ceremony

By Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
February 15, 2014 -- Updated 1439 GMT (2239 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Billie Jean King is named in the presidential delegation to the closing ceremony
  • She withdrew from opening ceremony because of mother's illness
  • King wants Russia's LGBT community "to know they are not alone"
  • Russia has been criticized for its position on gay rights

(CNN) -- Tennis legend and openly gay athlete Billie Jean King has been named as part of the presidential delegation to the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia,

King, a 2009 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest U.S. civilian honor, was initially named as part of the opening ceremony delegation but had to pull out because her mother was ill.

Russia has faced widespread criticism over its position on gay rights since passing an anti-gay propaganda law last year, which bans anyone from speaking positively about homosexuality in the hearing of children.

In a commentary for CNN in January, King said the decision to include openly gay men and women in the presidential delegation to Sochi was perhaps a statement by the United States.

"While I am not planning to protest or demonstrate, I am concerned with the treatment of the LGBT community in Russia and throughout the world. I want the LGBT community living in Russia to know they are not alone and I hope others realize this is not only a gay rights issue, but a global concern for human rights and equality," she wrote.

"As I said when I was named to the U.S. delegation, I hope these Olympics will be a watershed moment for the universal acceptance of all people."

The closing ceremony takes place on February 23.

President Barack Obama also named Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul to the delegation, as well as former gold medal Olympians Bonnie Blair and Eric Heider, a White House statement said.

The delegates will watch some events and meet U.S. athletes as well as attend the final ceremony.

CNN's Jim Acosta, Kevin Liptak and AnneClaire Stapleton contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT