LAUSANNE: The Russian anti-gay row is history as far as the International Olympic Committee is concerned after the tacit agreement of what appears to be a delicate truce over the issue writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
A string of responses – from boycotts to painted fingernails at the recent World Athletics Championships in Moscow – had been provoked by legislation approved by President Vladimir Putin earlier this year which prohibits alternative lifestyle propaganda to the under-18s.
IOC president Jacques Rogge sought ‘clarification’ from the Russian authorities on the law amid concerns that gay competitors at the Winter Games in Sochi next February risked fines or even jail.
Now the IOC has received what it has described as “reassurances from the Russian government that everyone will be welcome at the Games in Sochi regardless of their sexual orientation.”
A statement from the IOC said that Deputy Prime Minister Kozak had underlined a Russian commitment “to comply strictly with the provisions of the Olympic Charter and its fundamental principles, according to item 6 of which “any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.”
He added: “The Russian Federation guarantees the fulfilment of its obligations before the International Olympic Committee in its entirety.”
The IOC has accepted Kozak’s ‘clarification’ but its own statement has left no doubt that was not retreating from its own stance that “sport is a human right and should be available to all regardless of race, sex or sexual orientation.”
In a cautionary further comment, the IOC added: “The Games themselves should be open to all, free of discrimination, and that applies to spectators, officials, media and of course athletes. We would oppose in the strongest terms any move that would jeopardise this principle.”
An ongoing concern will now focus around whether any participant at the Sochi Games will seek to test the limits of this uneasy stand-off.