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SBD Global/August 8, 2013/Olympics

Russia Deputy PM Dmitry Kozak Says Country Won't Infringe On Gay Rights

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, speaks with Deputy PM Dmitry Kozak in Sochi in February.
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).
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Olympics, Russia

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