U.S. Will Not Send Presidential Delegation to Paralympics in Russia

While American athletes will still compete, President Obama’s delegates will not attend due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

A former paralympian on Saturday at a lighting ceremony in Stoke Mandeville, England, the birthplace of the Paralympian Movement.
National Journal
Matt Vasilogambros
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Matt Vasilogambros
March 3, 2014, 7:09 a.m.

The United States will no longer send a pres­id­en­tial del­eg­a­tion to the Para­lympic Games in So­chi on Fri­day, ac­cord­ing to the White House.

As a con­sequence of Rus­sia’s mil­it­ary in­va­sion of Ukraine last week, Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Coun­cil spokes­wo­man Caitlin Hay­den told Na­tion­al Journ­al that while the U.S. ath­letes will still par­ti­cip­ate, Pres­id­ent Obama de­cided not to send of­fi­cial rep­res­ent­at­ives to the open­ing ce­re­mony.

The Winter Olympics may be over, but the com­pet­i­tion with ath­letes with phys­ic­al dis­ab­il­it­ies starts Fri­day. A boy­cott by U.S. of­fi­cials is the latest in sym­bol­ic ges­tures against Rus­sia.

The six-per­son U.S. del­eg­a­tion would have been led by Rep. Tammy Duck­worth, a wounded vet­er­an, and also in­cluded three ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials, one of whom was Celeste Wal­lander, the seni­or dir­ect­or for Rus­sia and Cent­ral Asia on the Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Coun­cil.

“Pres­id­ent Obama con­tin­ues to strongly sup­port all of the U.S. ath­letes who will par­ti­cip­ate in the Para­lympics and wishes them great suc­cess in the Olympic com­pet­i­tion,” Hay­den said in an emailed state­ment.

This is the first time Rus­sia is host­ing the nine-day Para­lympics, which will bring in 700 ath­letes from 44 na­tions.

U.K. Prime Min­is­ter Dav­id Camer­on on Sunday already an­nounced that Brit­ish gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials would boy­cott the Para­lympics be­cause of Rus­sia’s latest mil­it­ary ac­tion in Ukraine, say­ing it would be “wrong” to at­tend. The coun­try’s ath­letes, however, will still com­pete.

The U.S. has a his­tory of boy­cot­ting Olympic com­pet­i­tions in Rus­sia. Amer­ic­an of­fi­cials and ath­letes, along with 64 oth­er na­tions, did not at­tend the 1980 Sum­mer Games in Mo­scow in the midst of the Cold War. The reas­on: a So­viet-led in­va­sion of a sov­er­eign coun­try. In a fa­mil­i­ar twist, the U.S. pro­tested the So­viet Uni­on’s war in Afgh­anistan, which ended up last­ing nine years.

The Winter Olympics were already clouded in polit­ic­al con­tro­versy, es­pe­cially with Rus­sia’s in­volve­ment in the Ukrain­i­an crisis to­ward the end of the Games.

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