(ANSA) - Rome, January 16 - An senior Italian member of the
International Olympic Committee apologized Thursday for "terms"
he used to criticize US President Barack Obama in choosing
openly gay athletes to represent the United States at the 2014
Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, but he insisted that the Games
should not be used for political purposes.
"I'm not homophobic. Regarding gays I used inappropriate
terms," said Mario Pescante, a former IOC vice president and
current head of the IOC's International Relations Commission.
Calling Obama's move an act of "political terrorism" at an
Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) meeting Wednesday, Pescante
added it was "absurd that a country like that sends four
lesbians to Russia just to demonstrate that in their country gay
rights have been established. The Games should not be an
occasion and a stage to promote rights that sports supports
On Thursday he reiterated his opposition to "using the
Olympics for political purposes".
For the first time in 14 years, the American Olympic
delegation will not include a president, vice president and
Instead, representing the US are three openly gay athletes:
former tennis great Billie Jean King, retired figure skater
Brian Boitano and hockey player Caitlin Cahow.
The delegation was named last month amid Western backlash
to Russia's discriminatory laws regarding the LGBT community.
A former middle-distance runner, Pescante was Italy's
supervisor of the 2006 Turin Winter Games and the head of the
committee promoting Rome's abandoned 2020 bid.
He is credited with brokering peace talks with Palestinian
and Israeli Olympic officials in recent years.
Pescante has been harshly criticized at home for his
Prominent Italian gay rights group Gay Center called on him
to resign from the IOC on Thursday.
And former Italian sport minister and Olympic canoe gold
medalist Josefa Idem said Pescante's "level of tolerance was
truly too, too low," whereas Obama's delegation she deemed "was
not a political provocation".