MOSCOW, August 9 (R-Sport) – International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge said Friday there are “still uncertainties” over how Russia’s controversial anti-gay legislation might affect athletes and spectators at the Sochi 2014 Olympics, and the IOC has asked for clarification before issuing an official stance.
The law, which was signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in June, levies stiff fines or jail terms for organizations or individuals who promote “non-traditional relationships” to minors. The legislation, which is threatening to overshadow the Sochi Games, has provoked international outcry from world leaders, athletes and gay rights activists, some of whom have called for a campaign to boycott the Sochi Games next February.
Rogge said the IOC is looking at written confirmation from the Russian side that the law will not apply to athletes and visitors in Sochi.
“We received it yesterday and we studied it this morning,” he said at a news conference in Moscow ahead of the world athletics championships. “There are still uncertainties and we have asked for more clarification as of today.
“When we understand the law, we are prepared to abide the Olympic charter, which says sport is a human right and it should be available to all.”
The president said current confusion is tied up in the English translation of the Russian law, explaining the IOC does not have a “good comprehension” of its wording.
Rogge confirmed however that the IOC has received “all assurances” from Russian Olympic supervisor Dmitry Kozak that Sochi athletes and visitors will be exempt from the law.
Amid rising clamor for an international boycott or official IOC protest of the Sochi Olympics, Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said Thursday that foreign governments, sports federations and athletes should “calm down” over the new legislation.
On Tuesday, US President Barack Obama condemned the law in an interview with American talk show host Jay Leno.
“I have no patience for countries that try to treat gays or lesbians or transgender persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them,” Obama said, firing the latest salvo in what has become an increasingly contentious relationship between the US and Russia.
There has, however, been some confusion in recent weeks over how Russia intends to enforce the law.
Mutko has insisted anyone found to be “propagandizing” gay relationships in Sochi would be “held accountable.” But Kozak, a deputy prime minister, has struck a calmer tone, promising “no diminishing of rights based on sexual orientation” at the Olympics.
While the law’s proponents argue it is aimed at protecting children from harmful influences, critics allege that the move is part of a broader crackdown on Russia’s gay community.
Russia has come under international criticism, including from the European Court of Human Rights and European Parliament, for its treatment of gay people.
Updated with background, Obama quote and additional Rogge quotes.