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Political games well underway on eve of Sochi Olympics

Few world leaders attending Sochi Games 02:41

Chinese President Xi Jinping was on his way Wednesday to the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, where he's set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

 But, as Mark Phillips reported on "CBS This Morning," Xi is one of the few world leaders planning to show up for the games. It's all part of the political games that are already being played in Sochi.

At some point, hopefully soon, Phillips reported, these Olympics will be about sports. However, for now, the blizzard of politics won't stop blowing.

Putin laid on the charm again, breaking into English as he welcomed the IOC to town, saying, "Dear friends, ladies and gentlemen, let me declare the 126th session of the International Olympic Committee open. Thank you."

But Putin's games are not being held in a vacuum of sporting purity - they rarely are.

Russia has baggage. Its perceived anti-gay law, its position supporting the regime in Syria, its harboring of the NSA leaker Edward Snowden - they've all meant a lot of important people have found reasons not to be in Sochi. No President Obama or senior administration officials. No David Cameron from Britain. Or Francois Hollande from France. Or Angela Merkel from Germany.

Billie Jean King on civil rights and Sochi 05:13
Instead, low-level delegations are being sent - in the U.S. case, a not-so-subtle statement made with well-known gay personalities Billie Jean King and Brian Boitano.

That kind of response got a bit of an unwelcome lecture from the IOC's new head, Thomas Bach. He said, "Have the courage to address your disagreements in a peaceful, direct, political dialogue and not on the backs of the athletes."

Politics have often intruded in the Olympics, such as in the Black Power salute in Mexico City, the Western boycott of Moscow in 1980, the tit-for-tat Russian boycott of Los Angeles.

The preliminary competitions in Sochi begin Thursday, a day ahead of the big opening ceremony, which promises to be a celebration of Russian history.

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