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SBD Global/January 28, 2014/Olympics

IOC President Says Sochi Olympics Athletes Should 'Speak Out, Not Disrupt'

IOC President Thomas Bach has encouraged Olympic athletes wishing to make any political statement or protest "to speak out, rather than upstage a medal presentation" at the Sochi Olympics, according to Jacquelin Magnay of THE AUSTRALIAN. Bach told reporters that the IOC "would not gag athletes' rights to speak out," but the committee "would take action" if any protest affected Games competitions or the medal presentation podium. Bach: "It is absolutely very clear the Games cannot be used as a stage for political demonstrations, no matter how good the cause may be. If so, the IOC will take individual decisions (about punishment). On the other hand, athletes enjoy the freedom of speech. In a press conference if they want to make a political statement they are absolutely free to do so." Bach "also sought to allay increasing security fears," saying that IOC officials were on the ground in Sochi "meeting daily with the organising committee and political authorities." He said that the presence of many military in the area "wouldn't detract from the sporting spectacle, but would help the athletes and visitors feel secure" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 1/28). Asked whether he was urging athletes to make their point at news conferences rather than the medals podium, Bach said: "If you are drawing this conclusion I would not say anything against it" (REUTERS, 1/27).

SECURITY THREATS: In London, Heather Saul reported U.K. officials are warning more terrorist attacks are “very likely to occur” in Russia either before or during the Winter Olympics. A threat assessment "has named a Caucasus group, Imarat Kavkaz (IK) as causing the main danger." However, the document also questions whether the group is "capable of targeting the event within such a narrow time frame." It also noted that the IK "has not attacked non-Russian interests previously and focuses its fight on Russia, not the West" (INDEPENDENT, 1/27).

HOMOSEXUALS 'WELCOME': In L.A., Nick Holdsworth reported Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov said in a TV interview that there are "no gays" living in his city, emphasizing that gay visitors are welcome at the Games as long as they "respect the law." Pakhomov, a Kremlin loyalist and member of ruling party United Russia, told the BBC that gay visitors to Sochi were welcome as long as they did not "impose their habits on others" (HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, 1/27).
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