Russian President Vladimir Putin Says Gay People Welcome At Sochi Olympics
Russian President Vladimir Putin, "seeking to defuse criticism over his treatment of Russia's gay community," said that "all people will be welcome in the Black Sea resort of Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics," according to Alexei Anishchuk of REUTERS. Putin told IOC President Thomas Bach on an inspection visit in Sochi on Monday, "We are doing everything, both the organizers and our athletes and fans, so that participants and guests feel comfortable in Sochi, regardless of nationality, race or sexual orientation." The remark came unexpectedly from Putin, who said that "there is no discrimination against gays in Russia which decriminalized homosexuality" in '93. But gay people are often blamed for not helping overcome Russia's demographic problems and face ostracism from the resurgent Orthodox Church, "which has fostered increasingly close ties with the Kremlin during Putin's 13-year rule." Bach "urged Russia to brace itself for tough competition during the event which will challenge not only Russia's organizational skills but also its confidence in its sporting standing." Bach told Putin, "When the Olympic flame will be burning at the Olympic stadium, it is up to you, because the success of Olympic Games also very much depends on the success of the home team" (REUTERS, 10/28).