TODAY   |  December 19, 2013

Obama selects openly gay athletes as Olympic delegates

Russian President Vladimir Putin has not directly responded to Obama’s decision to select openly gay athletes to serve as delegates at the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi. NBC’s Pete Williams reports.

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>> let's begin this half hour, though, with new detention on russia 's anti- gay laws , with the winter games now just 48 days away. president obama will not attend. he picked two openly gay athletes to be a part of the u.s. delegation. we will talk to one of them in a moment. first, nbc's white house correspondent peter alexander has the latest. good morning.

>> reporter: good morning to you. as we speak, president vladmir putin of russia is speaking to reporters in that country. he told us a top responsibility the host of the winter games will insure equal conditions for all athletes. so far, he has not specifically addressed the u.s. olympic delegation for the first time in years will not include a member of the first family, the vice president or even a current member of the cabinet. with seven weeks until sochi welcomes the world the u.s. move marks the latest chill in an already frosty relationship between president obama and russian president vladmir putin . early this morning, putin addressed the game t. main thing for us is the good organization of these competition, he said the creation of equal terms for equal athletes. with russia facing fierce criticism the white house said it wanted its dell gigs to represent the best of america, diversity, determination and teamwork. enlisting openly gay athletes like two time olympic hockey medallist caitlin kahow. and tennis legend billy jean king who said she hopes the game will be a watershed movement for all people. in september, king encouraged the american athletes to speak out. telling usa today sometimes i think we need a john car loss moment. referring to one of the two american sprinters kicked out of the 1968 mexico city olympics for protesting racial discrimination t. white house has been well represented in the past olympic games . problem traveled to buy jing in 2008 . and his wife laura went to torino two years earlier. one long time olympic observer insists the president's decision is a significant snub.

>> this is sending an absolute signal of complete and total disrespect for the russian federation and russian president vladmir putin .

>> reporter: they described that american decision about his delegation as what he called a clear disregard for the international olympic committee as well. he wondered if the move could actually impact u.s. chances in sochi, matt, where, of course, many of the competitions there are judged sports.

>> now whether it will be held against them. peter alexander ,