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26 Sep, 2013 16:48

Olympic officials OK with Russia ‘anti-gay propaganda’ law

Russia’s law banning "gay propaganda" to minors doesn't violate the Olympic charter’s anti-discrimination clause, Jean-Claude Killy, chairman of the IOC Coordination Commission, said as he pronounced the country ready to host the 2014 Winter Games.

The Russian authorities have assured the International Olympic Committee that there’ll be “no segregation” during the Games, Killy told reporters at a news conference at the conclusion of the IOC commission’s tenth and final preparatory visit to the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

“The IOC doesn't have the right to discuss the laws that are in place in the country hosting the games, so unless the charter is violated we are fully satisfied,” Killy said, adding that the members of the commission had debated the issue with each other for several days.

Russia has been severely criticized by various governments, equality campaigners and human rights groups over the law it passed in late June banning “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors,” with concerns raised that the legislation could apply to expressions of public affection by gay athletes and fans at the Sochi Games.  

The Russian authorities insist, however, that the law was designed to protect children and doesn’t in any way violate the rights of LGBT people.

“Regarding this law, if people of traditional sexual orientation spread propaganda of non-traditional sex to children, then they will also be held accountable,” said Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak, who is overseeing the Sochi 2014 preparations. “So there is simply no need to talk about discrimination.”

IOC Coordination Commission Chairman Jean-Claude Killy (AFP Photo / Mikhail Mordasov)

The chairman of the Sochi Organizing Committee, Dmitry Chernyshenko, also denied reports that the law caused US pop star Cher to turn down an invitation to perform at the opening ceremony of Russia’s first-ever Winter Olympics.

“We don't know anything about Cher's intentions to come here,”
he said. “The Sochi Organizing Committee was not planning to invite this popular singer.”

In August, President Vladimir Putin signed a decree outlawing all demonstrations and rallies in Sochi for two-and-a-half months around the time of the Games, with many saying that the move was especially aimed at preventing gay rights protests during the Olympics.

As for the state of Russia’s Olympic preparations, Killy said that the country had “succeeded almost to the point when we say: Wow! This is fantastic!”

The Winter Olympics construction has been an “unprecedented challenge” for Russia, which had to build all the Sochi 2014 venues from scratch, he added.

“My first trip here was with the IOC president [Jacques Rogge] was in September 2007, and there was nothing here except for promises. And these promises have been kept,” Killy told RT. “That’s what excites me the most, because the Games are on the corner and those would be beautiful Games. Now we know that.”

The Sochi Winter Olympics will take place February 7-23, 2014, with the Paralympics following March 7-16.

The stadium of Laura Biathlon and Ski Complex in Sochi. (RIA Novosti / Alexey Filippov)