COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The U.S. Olympic Committee board revised its non-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation, a nod to its disapproval of the Russian anti-gay law recently passed by the Olympic host country.
At his annual address to the USOC Assembly on Friday, CEO Scott Blackmun said the federation is not in the business of trying to influence Russian policy.
“The fact that we do not think it is our role to advocate for a change in the Russian law does not mean that we support the law, and we do not,” Blackmun said.
The board passed the measure Thursday, a week after chairman Larry Probst, a new member of the International Olympic Committee, said he would support a similar change to the IOC Olympic charter. Currently, it does not mention sexual orientation as a form of discrimination.
With the Sochi Olympics less than four months away, Blackmun said the USOC is seeking clarity from the IOC on what will and won’t be regarded as violations of the IOC rule against using the Olympic stage to make political protests or demonstrations.
Meantime, he said the USOC has given the athletes freedom to express themselves in the lead-up to the Games “however they see fit.”
Blackmun pointed to last week’s comments from Bode Miller, who said “I think it’s absolutely embarrassing that there’s countries and there’s people who are that intolerant and that ignorant,” as an example of the USOC’s tolerance of any opinion.
Though he didn’t commit to a bid for the 2024 Olympics, Probst said the USOC “is far better positioned for success” than it has been in the past.
BOBSLEDDING: When the U.S. bobsled and luge teams start their competitive seasons this weekend in Lake Placid, N.Y., no one will be clinching any spots for the Sochi Olympics.
However, some might move quite a bit closer. And others may find their road to Sochi get considerably tougher.
Even though it doesn’t look or feel anything like winter in Lake Placid, N.Y. – there’s no snow and some people aren’t seeing a need to wear light jackets yet – sliding season has arrived. Team trials are scheduled to start on today for women’s and two-man bobsledding on the track at Mount Van Hoevenberg, followed Sunday by the beginning of USA Luge’s national championships and seeding races.
For many sliders, these will be important steps on the way to becoming an Olympian.
“I’m excited to put up some numbers at the start and just kind of get it going,” said U.S. women’s bobsled push athlete Aja Evans. “It’s almost like the longest Christmas Eve ever, like you kind of snuck in and saw what Santa’s putting under the tree. Now I can’t wait to get my presents on Christmas, but then Christmas doesn’t come. I’m ready to get out there.”
Sliding season started early in Lake Placid, with the track opening Oct. 1. Keeping it open has been difficult.
Warm temperatures, wind and rain have wreaked havoc on the ice, forcing the cancellation of many sessions and keeping most skeleton athletes off the ice for much of the last week. Skeleton’s team trials will not begin until the teams arrive later this month in Park City, Utah.
“This time of year is tough with weather conditions,” said USA Luge head coach and sport program director Mark Grimmette. “It’s not easy to get fast ice. But the track crew is working day and night to give us the best conditions possible.”
Luge’s national championships end Oct. 20 in Park City. The U.S. bobsled and skeleton teams have a total of seven additional race sessions <0x2014> including the entire four-man bobsled team trials series <0x2014> between Oct. 20-30, both in Lake Placid and on the 2002 Olympic track in Park City.
For a small number of sliders, Saturday is little more than a dress rehearsal. In two-man bobsled, Steven Holcomb will be competing with brakeman Steve Langton, even though Holcomb already has a spot assured on the team based on past performance.
Nonetheless, they’ll be out Saturday morning trying to throw down a time that no other American sled can catch.
“You don’t want your first race to be your first race,” Holcomb said. “Langton’s going to be focused like it’s race day. I’m going to be doing the same thing. Exact same warm-up, my team is nice enough to play along and go out early and take care of the sled. It’ll be good to get going.”
It’s expected that the Olympic teams for bobsled, skeleton and luge will be known by mid-to-late December.