BERLIN: Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), has insisted the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi must remain open to all despite the Russian government’s controversial anti-gay laws.
“The International Olympic Committee is aware that sport is a human right and must be accessible to all, regardless of ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation,” the 71-year-old told yesterday’s edition of German newspaper Tagesspiegel.
“The Games themselves must be open to all, this applies to spectators, officials, journalists and, of course, the athletes.”
After 12 years in office, Rogge will be replaced as IOC president next month when elections are held at the 125th IOC Session in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
But the Belgian said there can be no place for discrimination at any Olympic Games.
“The IOC will continue to work to ensure that the Games take place without discrimination,” Rogge added.
“We would oppose, with all our might, any movement that threatens this principle.”
In June, Russian president Vladimir Putin signed a law against “gay propaganda” which punishes the dissemination of information about homosexuality to minors.
Activists say the law can be used for a broad crackdown against gays and there are fears it could be used against participants at the Sochi Olympics.
It has sparked calls for a boycott in some quarters and Russian officials have said all athletes will have to obey the law at the Games.
But Rogge has said he has reassurances from “the highest level” that the Sochi games, which run from February 7 to 23, will take place without discrimination against homosexuals.
“The IOC has commitments from the highest authorities in Russia that this legislation will not affect anyone who attends the Games or takes part in them,” added Rogge.
‘Anti-gay law furore Western media invention’
MOSCOW: Russia’s Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko yesterday accused western media of overplaying the anti-gay issue that has plagued the World Athletics Championships in Moscow.
However, Mutko insisted the controversial law was not just about homosexuality but also to protect Russian youth from ‘drugs, drinking and non-traditional relationships’ -- the term used in Russia for same sex relationships).
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law in June that punishes the dissemination of information about homosexuality to minors. But activists say it can be used for a broader crackdown against gays.
Fears it could be used against participants at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics have sparked calls for a boycott of the event in some quarters and Russian officials have said all athletes will have to obey the law at the Games.
“I think the Western mass media focus on this law much more than we do in Russia,” he said at the end of championships press conference.
“The athletes who compete in the Winter Olympics will be granted all rights as they were here in Moscow. Aside from these championships we have also just held the University Games in Kazan with 11,000 athletes. I have not heard of any problems relevant to obstruction of human rights during those Games.”
Mutko, formerly president of Russian football giants Zenit St Petersburg, said that he wished to once again impress on people that the law had nothing to do with infringing human rights.