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Sochi asks IOC to help stop gay law 'speculation'

Published on NewsOK Modified: September 8, 2013 at 7:25 pm •  Published: September 8, 2013
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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — The head of the Sochi Olympics asked the IOC on Sunday to help "stop this campaign and this speculation" related to the anti-gay law that has been overshadowing preparations for next year's Winter Games in Russia.

A senior IOC member, meanwhile, said sponsors are "afraid" of the fallout of possible demonstrations in Sochi.

"I think this could ruin a lot for all of us," marketing commission chairman Gerhard Heiberg said. "We have to be prepared."

IOC President Jacques Rogge said the Olympic body will remind athletes to refrain from any protests or political gestures during the Feb. 7-23 Sochi Games

Sochi organizing chief Dmitry Chernyshenko was asked at the IOC general assembly about the possible impact of the legislation that bans gay "propaganda."

He said the Russian government had made clear the law would not affect the games, and he urged the IOC to convey the message to "those who are still trying to speculate on this very transparent and very clear topic."

"It's very important to have your support to stop this campaign and this speculation regarding this issue," Chernyshenko said.

Russia's law prohibiting promotion of "nontraditional" sexual relations has been denounced by activists and criticized by President Barack Obama. Activists have called for a boycott of the Sochi Games, although Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron have ruled that out.

Chernyshenko reiterated that the law doesn't ban homosexuality in any way and "doesn't contradict any element of the Olympic Charter."

He noted that President Vladimir Putin has assured that the Russian constitution "guarantees the equality of rights and freedom for everybody" in the country, including guests, visitors, athletes, fans and the Olympic family.

"We are absolutely confident that there will be no conflicts in that regards," he said. "It will not stop (Sochi) 2014 from proudly upholding the Olympic values, I promise you."

Rogge said the IOC is satisfied with Russia's explanations of the law so far.

"The constitution of the Russian federations allows for homosexuality," he said. "And we have received strong reassurances that this law will not affect participants in the Sochi Games."

Chernyshenko cited comments by Putin in a recent interview with The Associated Press at his country residence outside Moscow. Putin sought to ease concerns the law would be used to punish athletes who display rainbow flags during the games, while insisting that gays are not discriminated against in his country.

"I assure you that I work with these people, I sometimes award them with state prizes or decorations for their achievements in various fields," Putin said.

The law, which Putin signed in July, makes it illegal to expose minors to information that portrays these relationships as normal or attractive. The law imposes hefty fines, while also subjecting foreign citizens to up to 15 days in prison.

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