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Vice President Mike Pence to lead U.S. delegation at Olympics

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence. (Getty)

Vice President Mike Pence will lead the United States delegation at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, a White House official said Wednesday.

The Winter Games begin with the Opening Ceremony on Feb. 9. Pence, his wife Karen and the rest of the delegation – which has not yet been officially announced – will attend. They will likely also attend various Olympic events.

Pence’s presence won’t be out of the ordinary. All but one White House Olympic delegation since 2000 has included either the president, vice president, first lady, a member of the president’s cabinet or a former president.

But the 2018 delegation will provide a stark contrast to the White House delegation at the last Winter Olympics, held in Russia in 2014. President Barack Obama did not send a member of the first family, nor Vice President Joe Biden, nor any member of his cabinet.

The 2014 delegation featured a U.S. ambassador to Russia, an Obama assistant (the Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy), and the president of the University of California (a former U.S. Homeland Security Secretary). It also featured former figure skater Brian Boitano, a 1998 Olympic gold medalist.

Boitano and Caitlin Cahow, who was part of the U.S. delegation at the closing ceremony, are gay. Boitano came out as gay in conjunction with the announcement that he would be part of the delegation. Their selections were seen by many as Obama’s response to the passage of anti-gay laws in Russia.

Pence’s trip to Asia will include a political purpose, according to a senior White House official. In addition to attending the Olympics, he’ll also stop in Japan, and “will reaffirm to the leaders of Japan and South Korea that the United States is fully committed to stability in the region,” per Reuters.

In related news, North Korea and South Korea met for the first time in more than two years about the Olympics, and the North agreed to send a delegation.

President Donald Trump will, unless there is a further announcement, likely not attend the PyeongChang Olympics. Only one standing U.S. president has attended since the Winter Games were held in Salt Lake City in 2002. President Bush was the one. He attended the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.