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Billie Jean King gets second chance to attend Sochi

Billie Jean King gets second chance to attend Sochi

Tennis legend Billie Jean King has been announced as one of the presidential delegates selected by Barack Obama to attend the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

The openly gay US former world number one, 70, was originally part of the line up to appear at the opening ceremony but she decided to drop out to care for her sick mother who died on 7 February.

Now King is being given a second chance to travel to Sochi as part of a group of US representatives.

The presidential delegates, who will be at the closing ceremony taking place on 23 February, include speed skaters Bonnie Blair, five-time Olympic gold medallist and one-time bronze medallist, and Dr. Eric Heiden, also a five-time Olympic gold medallist.

William J. Burns, Deputy Secretary of State and Michael A. McFaul, United States Ambassador to the Russian Federation will also be present.

The 2014 Winter Olympics have so far been dogged by stories of LGBTI people being badly treated in light of the Russian gay propaganda law.

King spoke up about this subject in an interview with CNN.

‘While I am not planning to protest or demonstrate, I am concerned with the treatment of the LGBT community in Russia and throughout the world’ she said.

‘I want the LGBT community living in Russia to know they are not alone and I hope others realize this is not only a gay rights issue, but a global concern for human rights and equality.’

King is a member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

President Obama made headlines when his chosen delegates for the opening ceremony were openly gay athletes including US hockey player Caitlin Cahow and Brian Boitano, a former Olympic figure skating champion.

Many believe Obama is sending a message to Putin saying he is committed to equal rights and visibility of LGBTI people in the light of the many homophobic incidents that have taken place in Russia recently.