Posted August 22, 2013

Russia vows to respect Olympic non-discrimination charter despite anti-gay law

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Protesters in front of the Russian Consulate in New York have been taking to the streets to express opposition to a new anti-gay law in Russia ahead of February's winter Olympics in Sochi. (Emmanuel Dunand/Getty Images)

Protesters have been taking to the streets in front of the Russian Consulate in New York  to express opposition to a new anti-gay law in Russia ahead of February’s Winter Olympics in Sochi. (Emmanuel Dunand/Getty Images)

The International Olympic Committee received a letter Thursday from Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak that said the country will not discriminate during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi despite a new anti-gay law introduced this summer that criminalizes “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors.”

According to the Associated Press, Kozak said in the letter that the host country “guarantees the fulfillment of its obligations” to the IOC but maintained that the new legislation will be enforced because it “cannot be regarded as discrimination based on sexual orientation” because the law applies to everyone. He added that the new rule concerns “restriction of information that promotes non-traditional sexual relationships among children.”

“These legislations apply equally to all persons, irrespective of their race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, and cannot be regarded as discrimination based on sexual orientation. … These requirements do not attract any limitations for participants and spectators of the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi on their legal right of residence in the territory of the Russian Federation or participation in any events stipulated in the Games program that are contradictory to the Olympic Charter or universally recognized standards of international law on human rights.

Kozak said the Russian constitution prohibits discrimination against anyone based on sex, race or religion.

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The letter on Thursday was prompted after IOC president Jacques Rogge asked the Russian government for clarification on whether the new law would be enforced during international competitions, such as the upcoming Olympics in February or the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Rogge said the letter provides “strong written reassurances” that the country will uphold its obligation to the IOC to welcome all visitors to the country:

“We have today received strong written reassurances from the Russian government that everyone will be welcome at the Games in Sochi regardless of their sexual orientation.”

The report says that even though the IOC forbids political gestures of any kind, it remains unclear whether propagandizing includes an athlete or spectator who may wear a badge or rainbow to express solidarity with gay rights or write about gay relationships on Facebook, for example.

Last week, two-time Olympic pole vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva of Russia spoke out against opponents of the anti-gay law, saying people need to respect the decision of her country. Her comments came after Swedish Olympic high-jumper Emma Green Tregaro publicly spoke out in opposition to the new anti-gay law and posted a picture on Instagram of her fingernails painted in rainbow colors with the hashtag #pride to show her support for LGBT rights.

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