Obama says Russia has 'big stake' in making Olympics work for everyone, including gay athletes

Mark Wilson

"I think they understand that for most of the countries that participate in the Olympics, we wouldn't tolerate gays and lesbians being treated differently."

President Barack Obama weighed in for the first time on Russia hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics along with its recent passing of strict anti-gay laws. Speaking on the "Tonight Show," Obama told Jay Leno:

"I think Putin and Russia have a big stake in making sure the Olympics work," Obama said, "and I think they understand that for most of the countries that participate in the Olympics, we wouldn't tolerate gays and lesbians being treated differently.

"And if Russia wants to uphold the Olympic spirit," he added, "then every judgment should be made on the track, or in the swimming pool, or on the balance beam, and people's sexual orientation shouldn't have anything to do with it."

While Obama got his sports wrong -- there is no track, swimming or balance beam at the Winter Games -- it is important that he spoke out. Given the rocky state of U.S.-Russia relations these days, it's likely to have little immediate impact but it does show that the issue of Russia's treatment of LGBT people has reached the highest levels of power.

I have to applaud Leno for stating this: "I mean, this seems like Germany. Let's round up the Jews, let's round up the gays, let's round up the blacks. I mean, it starts with that. You round up people who you don't - I mean, why is not more of the world outraged at this?" More people do need to get outraged by this.

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