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Peter Vidmar resigns as 2012 Games chef de mission

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Peter Vidmar resigned as chef de mission for the United States 2012 London Olympics team on Friday, saying he did not want controversy over his opposition to gay marriage to be a distraction to athletes.

“I have dedicated my life to the Olympic movement and the ideals of excellence, friendship and respect,” said Vidmar in a statement released by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC).

“I wish that my personal religious beliefs would not have become a distraction from the amazing things that are happening in the Olympic movement in the United States.

“I simply cannot have my presence become a detriment to the U.S. Olympic family. I hope that by stepping aside, the athletes and their stories will rightly take center stage.”

A double gold medalist at the 1984 Summer Olympics and a devout Mormon, Vidmar has publicly opposed same sex marriage. The Mormon church considers pre-marital sex and same-sex marriage immoral.

The USOC did not immediately name a replacement.

“Peter is respected the world over for his dedication and commitment to the Olympic movement and is rightly considered one of America’s great Olympic champions,” said USOC CEO Scott Blackmun.

“I believe Peter would have served our athletes well but given the nature of this issue, I certainly respect his decision to resign.

“As we look toward London 2012 and the selection of Peter’s replacement, we’ll do so with the sole intent of showcasing America’s best and brightest stars and the inspirational story that each member of our Olympic team has to share.”

Writing by Steve Keating in Toronto, editing by Peter Rutherford