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Winter Olympics, where lava lavas are not allowed

fili@samoanews.com

The American Samoa National Olympic Committee (ASNOC) is working at this time to strengthen its sporting organizations and will not be sending delegates to this year’s Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia where the local Department of Homeland Security (ASDHS) has issued a travel advisory for those heading to the Russian city.
 
American Samoa’s name surfaced two weeks ago, via online news provider Adobo Chronicles, saying that when contingents from participating nations march in for the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics on Feb. 7th in Sochi, Russia, spectators will not see the athletes from Scotland, Fiji or American Samoa.
 
The reason, it says, is that the Russian government under President Vladimir Putin has banned male athletes from wearing skirts in public. The ban is consistent with Russia’s “controversial law prohibiting any public display of homosexuality”.
 
According to the news website, the Scottish Olympians were supposed to wear kilts, traditional attire for men and boys in Scotland, while the Fijians and Samoans were to wear the traditional “lava lava”, a male version of the female “sarong”.
 
Additionally, Fiji and American Samoa are among the few tropical nations that send a delegation to the “quadrennial winter competitions”. The Chronicle story was also forwarded to Samoa News by both local and off-island readers voicing concerns that American Samoa males  cannot wear their “lavalava” to showcase our Samoan culture in an international sports competition.
 
Samoa News could not recall ASNOC ever participating in Winter Olympic Games, only the Summer Games. ASNOC also did not provide any information on whether the territory had ever participated in Winter Games.
 
As for this year’s Winter Games, ASNOC president J. Victor Langkilde told Samoa News Tuesday this week that “American Samoa has no representation and no delegation going to Sochi for the Winter Olympics this year.”
 
“The goal right now is to first fix and strengthen our organization on the home front,” he said and noted that ASNOC is working on a “comprehensive plan with ASG as its partner, structuring sports development and programs in the territory.”
 
This week ASDHS issued a a general “travel advisory” for those who plan to attend or travel to Russia on official or personal business for the Sochi Olympics and/or the Paralympic Games in March.
 
Due to the huge numbers of people expected to attend the games, there will be those with the intention to commit cyber-crimes and multi scams and safety concerned activities in that country, it says and advises that all personal travel and important documents, credit cards and electronic devices, while there, are safely kept and protected.
 
Additionally, it’s possible that any electronic equipment brought to the Sochi Olympics could likely be compromised. “It is advised to be extra cautious and vigilant at all times in maintaining cyber security practices,” the advisory states.
 
BACKGROUND
 
In response to Russia’s new anti-gay law, President Barack Obama last month named openly gay athletes to the delegation that will represent the U.S. at the opening and closing ceremonies, sending a clear signal to Russia about its treatment of gay and lesbians, according to The Associated Press at the time.
 
(Samoa News should point out however they will not be wearing lavalavas.)
 
Tennis champion Billie Jean King will join the U.S. delegation for the opening ceremony, while Caitlin Cahow, a women's ice hockey player and Olympic medalist, will represent the U.S. at the closing ceremony.
 
Also included in the delegation is Olympic figure skating champion Brian Boitano, who announced he was gay after being named by the White House to their delegation.
 
And during his State of the Nation address televised live Tuesday evening from the U.S. Capitol (afternoon, local time)  the President received a standing ovation from members of Congress and others in attendance when he referenced the Sochi Olympics. (The address was broadcast live in the territory via Honolulu-based television station KGMB through Bluesky Moana TV and BBC-World News on KVZK-TV Ch: 5)
 
“...we believe in the inherent dignity and equality of every human being, regardless of race or religion, creed or sexual orientation,” Obama said. “And next week, the world will see one expression of that commitment — when Team USA marches the red, white, and blue into the Olympic Stadium — and brings home the gold.”
 
Although American Samoa is not participating in the Sochi Olympics, the territory does have a connection to the 2014 host city.
 
American Samoa hosted, for their first and only time in March of 2007, the Oceania National Olympic Committee general assembly, whose members were given presentations by three world cities competing to host the 2014 Winter Olympic Games.
 
Sochi, Russia; Salzburg, Austria: and PyeongChang, South Korea had each provided a slide show and passed out folders with colorful pamphlets and booklets, showcasing snowy mountaintops and other winter Olympic events.
 
It was later in 2007 that IOC announced that Sochi, Russia, had won the right to host the Winter Games.
 
“Russia is a great winter sports nation, winning a lot of medals during Winter Games, but we have never hosted one,” Sochi’s bid director Andrei Braginski  told Samoa News after their Mar. 23, 2007 bid presentation.
 
“So there is a strong desire to welcome the games to Russia,” said Braginski, who had traveled 36 hours to Pago Pago, along with his colleague from Russia for the ONOC meeting.



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