SBD/December 3, 2013/Olympics

Bach Opens Up On Formidable Challenges Facing IOC Ahead Of '14 Sochi Games

Bach says he's been assured the Sochi Games will be free of discrimination
IOC President Thomas Bach "faces some formidable challenges" ahead of the '14 Sochi Games, as there "have been protests over human rights abuses in Russia and Rio de Janeiro ... threats to the Games in Russia by terrorist groups that have successfully carried out attacks before; and exploding costs in Sochi," according to Brian Cazeneuve of SI. Below are excerpts from a Q&A between Bach and Cazeneuve.

Q: Are you ... confident about security at these games?
Bach: Protecting the Games and the athletes is always the highest priority. There again we are confident that Russian authorities and security agencies will protect the Olympics. ... We have to take care that the best is done for security. But making concessions (by curtailing freedoms) would mean victory for terrorists.

Q: Are you satisfied with [Russia] President Vladimir Putin's assurances that all Olympic family members will be welcome in Russia [regardless of sexual orientation]?
Bach: President Putin was very clear in a conversation with me and in a following public declaration: He said that every athlete and spectator would be welcome in Russia, and there would be no discrimination with regard to race or sexual orientation or any other kind. We are sure that these Olympic Games will be free of any kind of discrimination. Here again it is the task of the IOC to make sure that the Olympic Charter is applied for the Olympic Games.

Q: Are the Olympics getting too expensive for a number of nations to afford?
Bach: We have to devise a real concept of sustainability for the Games. We apply the standards of one part of the world to the rest of the world. There ... we need a change. We have to invite candidate cities to tell us how they see the organization of an Olympic Games fitting into their long-term development plan, into their efforts for sustainability, which legacy they see for the Games in their social and cultural environment, and allow more creativity, have more diversity in the candidacies (SI, 12/2 issue).

I'LL BE BACH: The AP reported Bach on Saturday "met with Russian gay rights activists who urged an investigation before the Sochi Olympics into national laws banning 'gay propaganda.'" Int'l gay rights group AllOut said Russian campaigners asked Bach "to launch an independent investigation on the legal implications of the anti-gay laws in effect in Russia during the Olympic Games." The IOC and its sponsors "have been pressed to take a stronger position against Russia" after Putin signed a law in June "banning promotion of 'nontraditional sexual relations' to minors" (AP, 11/30).
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