Sochi 2014: Russian Olympics chief downplays leaders' absences

Story highlights

  • Alexander Zhukov says the absence of world leaders in Sochi won't diminish the Games
  • "The point is the competition itself," according to the Russian Olympic chief
  • U.S. President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande will be no shows
  • Russia's anti-gay propaganda law "offended" Obama, he said in August
No prominent world leaders at the Sochi Olympics in two months? No problem, according to Russia's Olympics chief.
US President Barack Obama, French President Francois Hollande and German President Joachim Gauck -- among others -- are all staying away from the winter Games but Alexander Zhukov isn't concerned.
"The point is the competition and not that 20 or 30 leaders come to the opening ceremony," Zhukov, Russia's former deputy prime minister, was quoted as saying by Russian news agency RIA Novosti on Tuesday.
It was announced last week that Obama wouldn't be attending because of his schedule. In August, however, he openly criticized Russia's anti-gay propaganda law.
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"Nobody is more offended than me by some of the anti-gay and lesbian legislation that you've been seeing in Russia," he said. "I've spoken out against that, not just with respect to Russia, but a number of other countries where we continue to do work with them, but we have a strong disagreement on this issue."
And Obama last week named tennis great Billie Jean King, who is gay, to the U.S. delegation at the Olympics.
Gauck reportedly is giving Sochi a miss to protest against human rights violations while French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said last week Hollande's attendance at the Games had "not been planned."