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Volume 6 No. 211


British Olympic Association Chair Sebastian Coe "has rejected calls" for a boycott of the 2014 Sochi Olympics in the wake of Russia's new anti-gay propaganda laws -- calling it a "ludicrous proposition" and insisting that boycotts do not work, according to Sean Ingle of the London GUARDIAN. Coe said that "there would definitely be no boycott by the British team in Sochi." Coe: "I don't think [boycotts] achieve what they set out to do. They only damage one group of people, and that is the athletes. It is an issue that needs to be addressed, but not an issue that is one of a boycott." Coe said that "he believed sport brought people together and could lead to dramatic change." Coe: "I am a profound believer that the relationships developed through international sport are often in the infancy of social change" (GUARDIAN, 8/10). The GUARDIAN also reported British actor Stephen Fry urged British PM David Cameron to support protests about Russia hosting the 2014 Olympics over concerns about anti-gay laws passed in the country. Fry, writing in an open letter on his website, compared the situation to the decision to hold the 1936 Berlin Games in Nazi Germany and said President Vladimir Putin "is making scapegoats of gay people." Fry: "An absolute ban on the Russian Winter Olympics of 2014 on Sochi is simply essential." Cameron's comments "follow similar remarks" by U.S. President Barack Obama. Obama said on Friday, "I do not think it is appropriate to boycott the Olympics. Nobody is more offended than me by some of the anti-gay and lesbian legislation" (GUARDIAN, 8/10). SKY NEWS reported Fry said that despite his original request, he accepted that the Winter Olympics could not be moved, "but he had made the call because he wanted to draw attention to the plight of gay people in Russia" (SKY NEWS, 8/11).

TRANSLATION ISSUE: The BBC wrote IOC President Jacques Rogge "has asked Russia to explain how its new law on gay propaganda might affect next year's winter games." Rogge: "We don't think it is a fundamental issue, more a translation issue." Rogge said that there were still "uncertainties" despite written assurances received from Sochi organizer Dmitry Kozak. Rogge: "We are not clear about the English translation of the Russian law and we want clarification of this translation to be able to understand what has been communicated to us" (BBC, 8/9).

In preparation for the 2014 Winter Games, "Sochi resembles a construction site," according to Charles Clover of  the FINANCIAL TIMES. The government has poured $51B into transforming the Soviet-era beach town into a resort city of the 21st century "with five-star hotels, new roads and a high-speed train line." While the Games will help create jobs in the area, "many residents who initially cheered the games have long since given in to resentment about the conditions they are living in." A Sochi taxi driver said, "We've been breathing this dust for five years, sitting in these unbearable traffic jams for five years." The city of more than 350,000 inhabitants has spent more than Rbs 21B ($640M) on "relocating residents to new homes after the start of large-scale construction." But new money seems scarce "and problems have not gone away as the construction enters its most intensive phase." According to Human Rights Watch, about 2,000 families "have been displaced in preparation for the Olympics." While most were compensated and given new homes, "some residents who have seen their homes devastated have not" (FT, 8/11).

Madrid, which is one of three cities competing to host the 2020 Olympic Games, "believes the Games will return to the U.S. in 2024," according to Matilla & Jiménez of AS. A U.S. host for the Olympics "is being demanded by NBC, which owns exclusive broadcast rights to the Olympics." NBC's current Olympics contract runs through '20, but "the U.S. hosting would be a good incentive to extend the contract and recover Olympic prestige." In London, NBC "was harshly criticized for delaying the broadcast of the opening ceremonies" (AS, 8/10).

CAUTIOUS CONFIDENCE: The EFE reported former Spanish Secretary of State for Sport Jaime Lissavetzky, who supported previous Madrid Olympic bids, believes that "hosting the Games is within reach for the Madrid 2020 bid." Lissavetsky: "Having it within reach does not mean we have it. No one can say it or joke about it because the three candidates are very similar and they all think the same thing." Lissavetsky "believes that in the final sprint it is best not to look back, believe in the possibilities and block out the rest" (EFE, 8/11).