Sochi, Russia – The 2014 Winter Olympics is just weeks away, and this spectacle to be hosted by Russia is gaining all the publicity plus a lot of controversy. Among other things, there have been numerous attempts to organize a boycott of the Sochi Olympics because of laws enacted by the government of Vladimir Putin criminalizing the public display of homosexuality within Russia. And just last month, the White House announced that the official U.S. delegation won’t include a member of President Barack Obama’s family or an active cabinet secretary, but it will include openly gay athletes including Billie Jean King, the tennis legend; and figure skater Brian Boitano.
Today, in a statement that stunned the sports and political world circles, the U.S. National Olympic Committee (USNOC) said that it has chosen the U.S. flag bearer for the February 7 Opening Ceremonies. It will be none other than Edward Snowden, the American accused of espionage in connection with leaks of top-secret information from the National Security Agency. Snowden is now living in Moscow and has been granted political asylum by the Putin government – another stickler in the hot and cold diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Russia.
In justifying its selection, the Olympic Committee said that regardless of the charges against him, Snowden represents the true spirit of strength, courage and perseverance which are among the prime ideals of Olympic sports. The Committee also admitted that using a controversial and recognizable figure like Snowden would generate a lot of buzz and would add to the popularity of the U.S. Olympic team. It is also part of the USNOC’s continuing strategy at cost savings. “Since Snowden is already in Russia,” we won’t have to pay for any travel expenses,” a USNOC spokesperson said.