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SBD Global/February 5, 2014/Olympics

IOC President Asks World Leaders To Stop Using Games For Political Gain

IOC President Thomas Bach, left, meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday.
IOC President Thomas Bach said that the Sochi Winter Olympics "are a purely sporting event which should not be used by uninvited guests to score political points," according to Karolos Grohmann of REUTERS. In a clear reference to world leaders who publicly refused to attend the first Winter Games in Russia, Bach said in an address in the host Russian city that "some of them had not even been invited." He said, "In the extreme we had to see a few politicians whose contribution to the fight for a good cause consisted of publicly declining invitations they had not even received." His comments "mark a sharp shift from predecessor Jacques Rogge, who avoided direct political references in issues relating to the Games." Bach: "To other political leaders we say: please understand what our responsibilities are and what your responsibilities are. Have the courage to address your disagreements in a peaceful direct political dialogue and not on the backs of the athletes. It is my deepest conviction that this would also be in your well-understood long-term political interest" (REUTERS, 2/4).

NO PLATFORM: REUTERS' Philip O'Connor wrote former Olympic champion and mayor of the mountain Olympic Village Svetlana Zhurova "has appealed to protesters not to use the Games as a platform to protest about gay rights in Russia." Zhurova, who won Gold in the 500m speed skating event at the 2006 Turin Games, said, "I have never seen (this) at any Olympic Games and I would call on the people who are going to protest, that it doesn't make sense." Zhurova said that "sexuality was irrelevant in the context of competition, and that gay and straight athletes would be treated equally" (REUTERS, 2/4). The SYDNEY MORNING HERALD reported Bach was asked "if the Olympic Charter needed revising in light of the controversial Russian anti-gay law that criminalises the promotion of 'non-traditional relations.''' He said that was "likely to be discussed in future meetings of IOC delegates." Bach: "The Olympic Charter is not set in stone. Of course we have to evolve and adapt to modern times" (SMH, 2/5).
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