During the first half hour of NBC’s 2014 Winter Olympics opening ceremony broadcast, an interview with President Obama aired where host Bob Costas asked him about a variety of Olympics-related topics.
It wasn’t as hard-hitting as Obama’s pre-Super Bowl interview with Bill O’Reilly, but the president did talk about his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the country’s anti-gay laws.
“We do not abide by discrimination in anything, including discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and one of the wonderful things about the Olympics is that you are judged by your merit,” says the president. “How good you are
regardless of where you come from, what you look like, who you love, and
that, I think, is consistent with the spirit of the Olympics. It is
certainly consistent with American values and we want to make sure the
people understand that.”
Later in the interview, the president says that his relationship with Putin is not “icy” and in fact, “there’s a surprising amount of humor” when they are in meetings together. “I think [Putin] recognizes the importance to Russia of working with the United States on areas of mutual concern. … The truth is, with any interaction between U.S. and Russian presidents, what’s going to be primary are the issues at stake.”
Finally, Obama has this message for the U.S. Olympians:
“We couldn’t be prouder of them. I’ve had the chance to meet a lot of Olympic athletes. … One observation when they came to the White House: They all look really healthy. They’re wonderful and spirited and they just make us proud. As president I’m obviously rooting for some of the older folks. I don’t know if Shaun White or Shani Davis want to be called old, but at least in Olympic years, these are folks who are repeaters and are going for medals again.
“But what’s wonderful about the Olympics is also to see these young kids, 18, 19, suddenly surface on the world stage and perform under incredible pressure. I think the main message is good luck, we are all proud of you, everybody back home is rooting for you, we are confident you’re gonna do well and and I can’t wait to have you guys visit the White House after you’re bringing home some gold, as well as some silver and bronze.
“But more than anything I know you’ll represent what’s best in our country and we’re really, really proud of all the work you’ve put in to get to this pinnacle of your sport, of your discipline. … Thank you very much, Bob. Go USA!”