IOC: Olympic cities must allow women to participate

Saudi Arabia's Wojdan Shahrkhani in action at her first Olympic Games Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Wojdan Shahrkhani made history as the first Saudi Arabian female Olympian at the London 2012 Games.

The head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said any country bidding to host the Games must make a commitment to "non-discrimination".

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Thomas Bach, said countries like Saudi Arabia must allow women to "freely participate" and attend events.

"If this is not applied, the bid would not be admissible," he told the BBC.

The IOC has faced heavy criticism for turning a blind eye to human rights abuses in host cities.

Last year the introduction of controversial Russian laws on homosexuality ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi led to worldwide protests by athletes and human rights campaigners.

'Not a super-government'

Mr Bach, who after Sochi rolled-out an "anti-discrimination" clause to host city contracts, confirmed "decisions of the IOC have political implications".

But the IOC, he added, had to be "politically neutral," in order to "ensure that the rules of sport can be applied worldwide, and that there are not different rules in different countries".

The organisation's responsibility, he said, is that "for the duration of the Games, and for all participants of the Olympic Games, the Olympic Charter applies".

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Russian President Vladimir Putin and IOC President, Thomas Bach watched Russia play Korea at ice sledge hockey. The Sochi Olympics focused attention on human rights in Russia.

The Olympic Charter codifies the IOC's commitment to "respect for universal fundamental ethical principles" and declares that "every individual must have the possibility of practising sport, without discrimination of any kind".

However Mr Bach said the IOC could only insist on these principles during the Games.

"This is the only area we are responsible for - we are not a super-government".

African Games?

The German president, who was once an Olympic fencer, referred to the recent Youth Olympic Games in China, at which the participants were given open internet access.

Asked about when an African country would get to host the Olympic Games, Mr Bach said this could happen as early as 2024, with South Africa a potential contender.

He added that African cities had not been given the Games previously because it was a "question of feasibility".