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SBD Global/August 8, 2013/OlympicsPrint All
Russia Deputy PM and Olympic supervisor Dmitry Kozak insisted on Wednesday that gay rights "will not be infringed upon before, during or after" the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, according to R-SPORT. Many Western activists "have called for a boycott of the event" after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed legislation banning the exposure of any "nontraditional sexual orientation" to minors in June. However, Kozak "sought to calm fears" that athletes arriving for the Olympics "would be affected." Kozak: "There will be no diminishing of rights based on sexual orientation at the Olympics, neither before nor after. No one should have any concerns whatsoever. People can get on with their private lives, and spread their respective advantages and attraction among adults. The main thing is that this doesn't touch children" (R-SPORT, 8/7).
CALLS FOR U.K. BOYCOTT: In London, Asia Lambert reported British actor Stephen Fry called on British PM David Cameron "to boycott the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi in protest at Russia’s anti-gay laws." An open letter was published on his website and sent to the IOC and British Olympic Association Chair Sebastian Coe. Fry claimed Putin "is making scapegoats of gay people" and the Games must be staged elsewhere to avoid Putin being "seen to have the approval of the civilised world" (LONDON TIMES, 8/7).
'NO PATIENCE': REUTERS' Mitch Phillips reported U.S. 800m champion Nick Symmonds "has become the first competitor at the world athletics championships to criticize Russia's anti-gay propaganda law," but maintains that "he will say no more out of respect for the host nation." Symmonds wrote in his blog for Runner's World magazine he "disagreed" with the controversial new legislation. U.S. President Barack Obama "weighed into the controversy" on Tuesday, saying he had "no patience" for Russia on the issue. Obama: "These laws, which do not expressly prohibit being homosexual, criminalize public discussion of homosexuality, especially with foreigners. As an American, I believe in freedom of speech and equality for all, and therefore disagree with the laws that Russia has put in place" (REUTERS, 8/7).
RULES NOT BLACK AND WHITE: In N.Y., Jeré Longman reported just as Russia now prohibits propaganda in support of nontraditional sexual orientation, the Olympic charter prohibits athletes from "making political gestures during the Winter and Summer Games." So it is "entirely possible that any bobsledder or skier wearing a pin, patch or T-shirt in support of gay rights could be sent home" not by Russian authorities, but by the IOC. Would the IOC "inflict such a public-relations disaster on itself?" Probably "not." However, Olympic officials globally, along with NBC and corporate sponsors in the U.S., "have put themselves and athletes in an awkward position by only tepidly opposing the Russian law that bans 'homosexual propaganda.'" The Olympic charter calls sport a human right that should be practiced "without discrimination of any kind." But "all the indignation the IOC could muster" about Russia’s new anti-gay law was a statement saying the Olympic Committee would "oppose in the strongest terms any move that would jeopardize this principle" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/6).
Human Rights Watch reported that "journalists and bloggers are among several groups that have been harassed and threatened by authorities in the Russian city of Sochi in the build-up to next year's Winter Olympics," according to blogger Roy Greenslade of the London GUARDIAN. Two journalists and a newspaper director "are said to be facing criminal charges after reporting stories viewed by local authorities as negative." In addition, "several independent online news sources and blogs that have posted critical stories or comments about the Olympics have had their sites disabled by hackers." HRW Europe and Central Asia Division Associate Dir Jane Buchanan said, "Press freedom is a central tenet of the Olympic charter and no successful Games can take place in an atmosphere in which journalists are afraid to report on stories of legitimate public interest" (GUARDIAN, 8/7).
Spanish Olympic Committee (COE) and Madrid 2020 President Alejandro Blanco "remains optimistic" that the third time will be "lucky for Madrid when the 2020 host city his announced" in Buenos Aires on Sept. 7, according to XINHUA. Blanco is not concerned that Tokyo "is favorite with the bookmakers." Blanco: "The betting doesn't have a lot to do with reality. If we take a look back at history, we can see that the favorite in the betting has never won and I like that. ... The Int'l Olympic Committee has valued us well and that is our strength." Spain will be represented in Buenos Aires by Prince Felipe, the heir to the Spanish throne. Blanco said, "He is a great ambassador, an Olympian, a diplomat and he has lived the experience and is able to explain the feeling. I can't thank him enough for his support and there will be nobody better than the Prince, no matter who Tokyo and Istanbul take" (XINHUA, 8/7). Blanco said, "We have to reinforce our messages, structure our presentation well and offer very profound messages. We hope there will be questions. If we have been the best-evaluated, we will have done well. We will explain this" (AS, 8/7).