SBD/October 23, 2013/Olympics

IOC President Tells Kerry He Is Confident Russia Will Not Discriminate Against LGBT Athletes

Bach's letter was in response to requests for clarification from the USOC
IOC President Thomas Bach yesterday wrote U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to say that the IOC is confident the Russian government will not discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender athletes, coaches or spectators during the Sochi Games. The letter was sent in response to a letter Kerry sent Bach in late September. In that letter, Kerry expressed concern about the affect Russia's anti-gay propaganda law may have on athletes and spectators during the Olympics. In his reply, Bach wrote, “One of the benefits of the Games is that they draw attention to a wide range of important issues outside the world of sport and beyond the remit of the International Olympic Committee. We accept the fact that others use the Games to highlight issues that they believe warrant more attention. However, it is important to stress that the IOC’s remit does not extend to the internal affairs of sovereign nations, no matter how we may feel about them. ... The IOC cannot hope to influence national legislation outside the scope of the Games and has to respect the law of each host country.” Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter, which governs the IOC, prohibits political demonstrations during the Games. The USOC and others have sought clarity from the IOC regarding how that rule will be enforced. Kerry in his letter underscored “that freedom of expression is a universal human right belonging to all. My government understands and fully respects the Committee’s intent to keep the Games from becoming a political forum, as provided in the Olympic Charter. ... However, we trust those who participate in and enjoy the Games will be free to express themselves consistent with international norms, including acknowledging and celebrating who they are and whom they love.” Bach did not address that request specifically in his reply. But he wrote, “We cannot let (the Olympic Games) become a forum for demonstrations or divisive political debates.” He closed by thanking Kerry for his letter.
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