Sochi 2014 Olympics

Russia blocking a yogurt shipment from reaching US Olympians

New York TimesFebruary 5, 2014 

  • •  Billie Jean King’s absence: Billie Jean King will not attend Friday’s opening ceremony of the Sochi Olympics in Russia because her mother is ill. King, who was selected to help lead the U.S. delegation to the Winter Games, has been outspoken in her opposition to Russia’s anti-gay law. The White House announced Wednesday that former U.S. hockey player Caitlin Cahow, originally scheduled for the closing ceremony, will take King’s place.

    •  Assurances from Putin: President Vladimir Putin pointed Wednesday to the Boston Marathon bombings as a big reason for the intense security around the Winter Olympics that Russia is kicking off this week. The Chechen brothers accused of the 2013 Boston attacks hailed from just a few hundred miles away from the Olympic sites at Sochi. Intelligence agencies from multiple countries will be working together around the clock at a special headquarters in Sochi, Putin said while visiting Olympic sites Wednesday.

  • 8-11 p.m. Thursday


    Competitions: Snowboarding (men’s and women’s slopestyle), freestyle skiing (women’s moguls) and figure skating (team event)

It was only a matter of time before two of the world’s superpowers clashed over a protein-rich dairy product.

The Russian government is said to be blocking a shipment of Chobani yogurt from reaching the U.S. Olympic team at the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

The blockade has prompted alarm from the yogurt industry’s political allies, who are outraged that U.S. athletes could be deprived of their beloved Greek yogurt.

At first a breakfast-table squabble, the dairy situation is quickly escalating.

The Obama administration has intervened, seeking to clear the way for the yogurt delivery. A U.S. senator fired off a stern letter to the Russian ambassador, asking for his assistance.

U.S. officials are hoping to receive a special dispensation from the Russian agency Rosselkhoznadzor – the Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance – whose jurisdiction apparently includes American-made Greek yogurt.

Yogurt production is a booming business in upstate New York, a place that does not have many booming businesses. The state’s politicians have been eager to promote the industry.

In this case, Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., is taking up the cause.

“There is simply no time to waste in getting our Olympic athletes a nutritious and delicious food,” Schumer said in a statement.

Asking for the blockade to be lifted, Schumer added that when it comes to yogurt, “The Russian authorities should get past ‘nyet.’ 

Chobani is the official yogurt of the U.S. Olympic team, and in the run-up to Sochi, its products were made available to athletes at Olympic training centers in the United States.

For the Olympics, the company had planned to send single-serve cups of blueberry, strawberry and peach yogurt, along with larger containers of plain yogurt that can be used to make smoothies.

The yogurt in question is presently being stored in a temperature-controlled facility near Newark Liberty International Airport, awaiting a green light from Russian officials.

In a statement, Chobani said it was grateful for Schumer’s intervention.

“This is a time when the focus should be on our athletes,” the company said, “so we’re just trying to do right by them in getting food they enjoy from home.”

There was no immediate word Wednesday about the fate of the yogurt. A spokeswoman for Schumer said the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, had not responded to his letter, and the Russian Embassy in Washington did not return a phone message.

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