Vladimir Putin

Russian government says it will not discriminate at Olympics, defends anti-gay law

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The International Olympic Committee received a letter from the Russian government on Thursday saying visitors at the Sochi Olympics will be welcome regardless of sexual orientation and at the same time defending the country’s new law.

“The Russian Federation guarantees the fulfillment of its obligations before the International Olympic Committee in its entirety,” Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak wrote.

Kozak defended a law passed in June banning the “propagandizing” of nontraditional sexual relations toward minors in Russia.

The law “cannot be regarded as discrimination based on sexual orientation,” as it applies to everybody, Kozak wrote, according to The Associated Press.

The IOC said two weeks ago it needed clarification on Russia’s law, citing a translation issue.

“We have today received strong written reassurances from the Russian government that everyone will be welcome at the Games in Sochi regardless of their sexual orientation,” IOC President Jacques Rogge said in a statement Thursday.

Kozak added this in the letter, according to Reuters:

“In particular, legislation of the Russian Federation does not stipulate any restrictions or differentiation of the rights and responsibilities of citizens on the basis of sexual orientation.

“Discrimination against sexual minorities, just as any other discrimination, is expressly forbidden by the Constitution of the Russian Federation.”

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President Obama to female Olympians: ‘Y’all crushed it’ (video)

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President Barack Obama hosted the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams at the White House on Thursday.

Obama opened his speech by saying that he had planned on doing a floor routine with Simone Biles, before ultimately deciding that the room was too crowded. First Lady Michelle Obama interjected to remind the crowd that her husband “can’t touch his toes.”

The President then singled out the athletic accomplishments of Olympians including Biles, Michelle Carter, Simone Manuel, Claressa Shields, Kristin Armstrong, Kim Rhode, Allyson Felix, Brianna Rollins, Nia Ali, Kristi Castlin, Katie Ledecky, Michael Phelps and the men’s and women’s basketball teams.

He also recognized: Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first American to compete in the Olympics wearing a hijab, Sam Kendricks, the U.S. Army reservist who put down his pole and stood at attention when the national anthem started playing, Will Claye, who proposed to U.S. hurdler Queen Harrison after winning an Olympic silver medal, and Abbey D’Agostino, who helped an opponent to her feet after a crash.

“That is exactly what the Olympic spirit and the American spirit should be all about,” Obama said about the sportsmanship of D’Agostino.

The President was particularly enthusiastic about the performance of the female athletes.

“2016 belonged to America’s women Olympians,” Obama said. “Y’all crushed it.”

Watch Obama’s full speech here.

After Obama’s speech, Biles presented him with a surfboard autographed by the Olympians in attendance.

“I’m going to have a lot of time to surf next year,” Obama said.

MORE: Photos of Team USA at the White House

Photos: Team USA at the White House

Twitter: @TeamUSA
Twitter: @TeamUSA
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President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams at the White House on Thursday.

Below are some of the best photos of Team USA from inside the White House: