Rogge weighs in on Sochi row

International Olympic Committee chief wants more clarification from Russian government over controversial anti-gay law.

    Rogge weighs in on Sochi row
    The law has caused a major international outcry with calls for protests ahead of next year’s Olympics [EPA]

    International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacques Rogge reaffirmed on Friday his organisation's commitment to an Olympic Games free of all discrimination in the light of the passing of a controversial Russian law banning "homosexual propaganda".

    The 71-year-old Belgian, speaking on the eve of the athletics world championships in Moscow and with the Sochi Olympics due to start next February, said the IOC was unable to make any decision about measures to take until they had clarification over the law.

    However, he said that the clarifications were to do with the English translation of a couple of paragraphs in the text.

    Rogge, who steps down from his post on September 10, was asked whether he would condemn the law but said without the full details he could not comment yet made it clear the rules within the Olympic Charter had to be respected.

    We have to abide by the Olympic charter, the charter is very clear. Sport is a human right and should be available to all regardless of race, sex, sexual orientation

    Jacques Rogges,

    "We have to abide by the Olympic charter, the charter is very clear," said Rogge.

    "Sport is a human right and should be available to all regardless of race, sex, sexual orientation."

    Clarity required

    Rogge, who has been in the post for 12 years having been elected by his fellow IOC members in Moscow, said that assurances had been received but more clarity was required.

    "The law was adopted and we received assurances from the head organiser of the Sochi Olympics," said Rogge, a former Olympic yachtsman.

    "We asked for and received the assurances in writing but we are still seeking clarifications on two paragraphs in which we are not clear about the translation of the Russian law.

    "It is more a translation issue not about fundamentals."

    As to whether the IOC would discipline athletes who made protests during the Games, Rogge said that, too, was not clear.

    "We would treat every case independently," he added.

    The controversy has threatened to overshadow the beginning of the world championships and refused to go away when Russia's Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko appealed for calm on Thursday, claiming the legislation was not aimed at clamping down on rights.

    "I would like to ask everyone to calm down," he told a news conference.

    "All sportsmen and sports organisations should be calm. All their rights are going to be protected."

    His comments came after British actor Stephen Fry called for Russia to be barred from hosting the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in the Black Sea resort of Sochi over what he called the "barbaric" law.

    US President Barack Obama has also weighed in criticising the law, saying he had no patience for countries that intimidated gays, lesbians and transgender persons.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin in June signed into law legislation that punishes the dissemination of information about homosexuality to minors but which activists say can be used for a broad crackdown against gays.

    "As for that law, it is not aimed at restricting the rights of citizens, irrespective of their nationality, faith or any other inclinations," said Mutko.

    "This law is aimed at banning propaganda for minors. No-one is going to infringe on anyone's rights."

    IAAF president Lamine Diack, speaking alongside Mutko, backed the minister's comments, saying that he did "not see problems in connection with this law".

    "We need to respect the laws of Russia," the supremo of world athletics said.

    "We have come to compete in athletics. And as for private lives, we do not need to touch this topic. So this topic does not worry me," said Diack.

    Foreigners found guilty of violating the law can not only be fined up to $156 but face administrative arrest of up to 15 days and eventual deportation.

    Gay activists have also been calling for a boycott of Russian vodka, whose brands have traditionally been popular in gay clubs.

    Meanwhile the hashtags #BoycottRussia and #BoycottSochi have become increasingly popular on Twitter.



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