Sochi Olympics: Russia says no discrimination for gay athletes

image copyrightReuters
image captionThe games will be Russia's most high-profile international sporting event in years

Russian officials say gay athletes competing in next year's winter Olympics will not face discrimination despite a controversial new law on gay propaganda, Russian media reported.

Such concerns were "completely unfounded", the interior ministry said, quoted by Interfax news agency.

Olympic committee chief Jacques Rogge recently asked Russia to clarify how the law might affect the Sochi games.

The law prescribes fines for providing information on homosexuality to minors.

Critics say its loose interpretation effectively hinders any kind of public gay rights event in Russia.

The ministry said that officials would act during the games - as at any other time - to protect children "from the propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations".

But it added that there would be no issue with "people who adhere to non-traditional sexual orientation but do not engage in these activities, nor stage any provocations, and take part peacefully in Olympic events together with everyone else".

The ministry said concerns over discrimination towards gay athletes at the games were "completely unfounded and unsubstantiated".

"We regard it purely as an attempt to undermine trust in the upcoming Sochi Olympics," it added.

Calls for the games to be moved to another country have come from gay rights campaigners around the world, including British broadcaster Stephen Fry who last week wrote an open letter to Mr Rogge and others.

The IOC later told the BBC it had received "assurances from the highest level of government in Russia that the legislation" would "not affect those attending or taking part in the games".

However, Mr Rogge - head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) - said on Friday that there were still "uncertainties" despite written assurances received from Sochi organiser Dmitry Kozak.

He added: "We are waiting for this clarification before having final judgement on these reassurances."

US President Barack Obama said on Friday he did not consider it "appropriate" to boycott the Winter Olympics over the gay rights issue.

Instead he hoped gay and lesbian athletes would do well at the games.

Homosexuality was decriminalised in Russia in 1993 and government officials have sought to play down the possible impact of the bill - passed in June - on the Sochi games.

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