WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama said Thursday that he had included openly gay athletes in the US Olympic delegation to show the United States would not abide discrimination in sport or anywhere else.
His comments, in an interview with NBC on the eve of the Sochi Winter Olympics, came after a senior Russian official warned athletes or spectators should not promote gay rights during the Olympics following the passage of controversial anti-gay legislation in Russia.
Obama picked several openly gay former athletes in the US delegation to the opening of the games and pointedly did not dispatch a cabinet-level official or a member of his family to Sochi.
"There is no doubt we wanted to make it very clear that we do not abide by discrimination in anything, including discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation," Obama said in the excerpts of his interview with US Olympic host broadcaster NBC.
"One of the wonderful things about the Olympics is that you are judged by your merit, how good you are regardless of where you come from, what you look like, who you love and that I think is consistent with the spirit of the Olympics."
Obama included openly gay figure skater Brian Boitano and women's hockey player Caitlin Cahow in the US delegation for the opening ceremony for the Games on Friday.
Tennis legend and gay rights campaigner Billie Jean King was also scheduled to attend, but pulled out because her mother is ill.
Earlier, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak warned spectators and athletes against promoting gay rights during the Olympics, saying it was forbidden by the Olympic Charter and Russian law to spread propaganda during a sporting event.