Hollande Not to Attend Winter Olympics

Prior to the London Games in 2012, French Presidents had been absent from four consecutive Olympic Games, including the Vancouver games. Above, the Olympic Rings in the Vancouver harbor. Photo: adrian8_8 for flickr.

French Presidents have been absent from four consecutive Winter Olympic Games, including the most recent Games in Vancouver. Above, the Olympic Rings in the Vancouver harbor. Photo: adrian8_8 for flickr.

President François Hollande is the latest addition to the list of key international figures who will not attend the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in February.

Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs, announced last Sunday without explanation that the President would not be attending. Many speculated that he was following suit of several other world leaders and joining in the boycott in protest of Russia’s law that limits the rights of homosexuals.

President Obama included three LGBT athletes – Billie Jean King, Brian Boitano, and Caitlin Cahow – in the official delegation representing the United States, stating, “when it comes to the Olympics and athletic performance, we do not make distinctions on the basis of sexual orientation.”

German President Joachim Gauck announced on December 8 that he would not be present in Sochi, which was assumed to be a protest against the homophobic law, although an official statement explaining the decision was never delivered.

Hollande dispelled rumors on Friday that he was planning to boycott the Games. The President claims that he simply “never thought of attending.”

Spokesperson Najat Vallaud-Belkacem explained that the French tradition was for the country to be represented, and that this year it would be at the ministerial level. Minister of Sports Valérie Fourneyron was chosen to take the place of Hollande and represent France in Sochi.

This move is not unprecedented – French presidents have been absent from four consecutive Winter Olympic Games. President Jacques Chirac did not attend the games in Nagano in 1998, Salt Lake City in 2002, or Turin in 2006, and President Nicolas Sarkozy was not present at the Vancouver games in 2010.

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