The head of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics has requested assistance from the International Olympics Committee to stop the “campaign” against Russia’s anti-gay law that has sparked backlash since the legislation was signed into law in July.
The head of Sochi’s organizing committee, Dmitry Chernyshenko, said that the law which bans “homosexual propaganda” would not affect the games as it would not apply to Olympic athletes, fans and media. He said the law has been misinterpreted by protesters and activists, and urged the IOC to communicate the message to “those who are still trying to speculate on this very transparent and very clear topic,” that Russia does not ban homosexuality.
“It’s very important to have your support to stop this campaign and this speculation regarding this issue,” Chernyshenko said.
A senior IOC official said Monday that sponsors, especially U.S. sponsors, are concerned about the law and are “afraid” of the potential fallout at next year’s Olympic Games. “I think this could ruin a lot for all of us. We have to be prepared,” marketing commission chairman Gerhard Heiberg said. “We can see many ways this could happen. I heard a lot from the sponsors, especially the American sponsors, what they are afraid of could happen.”
IOC President Jacques Rogge allayed any fears of possible demonstrations in Sochi and said the committee will remind athletes to refrain from protests or political gestures during the Games. “The constitution of the Russian federations allows for homosexuality,” Rogge said. “And we have received strong reassurances that this law will not affect participants in the Sochi Games.”
While activists have called for a boycott of the Winter Games in Sochi, Russian President Vladimir Putin assured that the Russian constitution “guarantees the equality of rights and freedom for everybody” in the country, including guests, visitors, athletes, fans and the Olympic family.”
Chernyshenko reiterated Putin’s statement and promised “there will be no conflicts in that regards.” “It will not stop [Sochi] 2014 from proudly upholding the Olympic values, I promise you,” he said.
Signed into law in July, the law prohibits the promotion of homosexuality and makes it illegal to expose minors to “nontraditional” relationships. Russia’s law enforces large fines and also can imprison foreign citizens for up to 15 days.
The law has been criticized by both President Obama British Prime Minister David Cameron, who have raised serious concerns about the repression of basic human rights in Russia.