Billie Jean King

Billie Jean King doesn’t want Olympics overshadowed

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Billie Jean King recognizes the impact of her presence on the U.S. delegation to Sochi. At the same time, the tennis legend stressed what she believes the Olympics are primarily about.

“I think when it all comes down to is it’s first and foremost about the athletes,” King said on TODAY on Thursday. “I was thinking about it this morning, trying to go way back when I was one of those athletes and how many years of discipline and how hard they work every day. This could be their one moment in time that they first represent their country and go for a medal.”

King, 70, was one of three gay athletes chosen by President Barack Obama in December to represent the White House at the Sochi Olympics. The others were two-time Olympic medalist hockey player Caitlin Cahow and Olympic champion figure skater Brian Boitano, who came out publicly two days after being announced on the delegation.

What kind of statement would King like to make in Russia, where a law is in place banning the promotion of non-traditional sexual relations toward minors?

“I think President Obama showed it,” she said. “He’s elected and selected three openly gay athletes, one very former athlete. I think Brian Boitano said it right. When we step off the plane, we are part of America. We are what America looks like. I think President Obama has done an amazing job on promoting diversity and inclusion.”

In September, King talked about the amount of activism from today’s athletes and said, “Sometimes I think we need a John Carlos moment.”

At the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, the sprinters Tommie Smith and Carlos, gold and bronze medalists, raised their fists on the medal stand during the national anthem in a human rights salute. They were expelled from the Games.

This fall and winter, U.S. medal hopefuls such as Bode Miller and Ashley Wagner have voiced opinions against Russia’s law.

“It’s really about human rights, civil rights,” King said. “The athletes are speaking out.”

King pointed out Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter, which states: “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”

She doesn’t want anything to overshadow the Olympics themselves but does not know what to expect. King’s plan in Sochi isn’t to check off attending events but to get to know the athletes.

“I’m going to look for future leaders,” King said.

Video: Brian Boitano says U.S. delegation must be careful in Sochi

NBC to air ‘More Than Gold’ documentary on Jesse Owens on Sunday (trailer)

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“More Than Gold: Jesse Owens and the 1936 Berlin Olympics,” a one-hour documentary on the track and field legend, will air on NBC on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. ET.

Morgan Freeman narrates the film on Owens, who won four gold medals at the Berlin Games in the face of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany.

Here’s a clip from the documentary.

“’More Than Gold’ will invite viewers inside the story of a pioneering athlete, who in the face of racial discrimination at home and the horrific theories and practices of Nazi Germany, performed at his best under immense pressure,” Mark Levy, Senior Vice President, Original Productions and Creative, NBC Sports Group, said in a press release. “Viewers will experience the Games through the compelling memories of Jesse’s surviving Olympic teammates, who were eye-witnesses to those events.”

“More Than Gold” includes interviews with Owens’ 1936 Olympic teammates swimmers Adolph Kiefer and Iris Cummings Critchell and canoeist John Lysak and Owens’ three daughters.

“Jesse Owens was the hero of every member of the 1936 Olympic team,” Kiefer said in a press release. “We all wanted him to win. We wanted him to win four medals. I’m just sorry it wasn’t five. He’s No. 1 and always will be.”

The film will also feature footage from the famous 1936 Olympic film “Olympia” from German director Leni Riefenstahl.

A feature-length film on Owens, “Race,” hits theaters on Feb. 19.

VIDEO: Three clips from ‘Race’ film about Jesse Owens

No consideration of postponing Olympics, IOC medical chief says

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LONDON (AP) — Seeking to calm fears over the Zika outbreak, the IOC medical director tells The Associated Press that “everything that can be done is being done” to combat the virus in Brazil and provide safe conditions for athletes at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Dr. Richard Budgett says the International Olympic Committee is “absolutely not complacent” about the mosquito-borne virus, which has been linked to birth defects.

He says “our priority is to protect the health of the athletes, we do take it very seriously.”

Budgett says the outbreak should be kept “in perspective,” noting that world health authorities have not called for a restriction on travel to Brazil.

He says there has been no consideration of postponing or canceling the Olympics, which are scheduled from Aug. 5-21.

MORE: USOC to hire Zika specialists