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Russian official: anti-gay law will not apply to Sochi Olympics

Aug 3, 2013, 7:33 AM EDT

Vladimir Putin Reuters

A Russian lawmaker said a new law banning gay rights activism will not be enforced during the Sochi Olympics in February, his Friday comments contradicting what another official said earlier this week.

“The Olympic Games is a major international event. We need to be as polite and tolerant as possible. That is why a decision has been made not to raise this issue during the Olympics,” Igor Ananskikh, deputy chairman of the State Duma’s Physical Culture, Sport and Youth Policy Committee, told Russian news agency Interfax.

“Russia plans to host large international competitions in the future. The atmosphere at them must be as safe and polite as possible.”

On Thursday, reports spread of comments made by another Russian official saying a law against gay “propaganda” would stay in effect for those involved with the Olympics.

“An athlete of nontraditional sexual orientation isn’t banned from coming to Sochi,” Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko told R-Sport. “But if he goes out into the streets and starts to propagandize, then of course he will be held accountable.”

Last week, the International Olympic Committee said it “received assurances from the highest level of government in Russia that the legislation will not affect those attending or taking part in the Games.”

The IOC stood by that sentiment after Mutko’s comments. R-Sport reported the IOC’s government source outranked Mutko.

Russian news outlet RT.com explains the law here.

The legislation “prohibiting propaganda of homosexuality to minors” was enacted on June 30, when it was signed by president Putin. It’s an amendment to the law “On protecting children from information harmful to their health and development”.

If found guilty of promoting “non-traditional sexual relationships”, individuals could face fines of up to 5,000 rubles (US$150). The sum would be multiplied by 10 if those individuals appear to be civil servants. Organizations, meanwhile, would have to pay 1 million rubles (about $30,000) or have their activity suspended for 90 days if they do not comply with the fresh amendment.

IOC presidential candidate Richard Carrion issued a statement Friday saying the IOC should use “all avenues possible” to keep athletes competing at the Olympics from being subject to the law passed in June.

“We should use all the avenues possible for influence and diplomacy with Russian officials, so that this legislation will not create a problem for our athletes,” he said. “I am confident that the discussions going on now with the Russian authorities will help clarify the extent of the law and will ensure that our athletes will be protected.

“And, looking ahead, a condition to getting the Olympics games in the future should be to make sure the city does not have laws that discriminate against people in any way, consistent with the Olympic Charter.

“I strongly believe in equal rights, including the right to practice sport, for every human regardless of race, nationality, gender or sexual orientation. The Olympic Games celebrate humanity through respect, friendship and excellence. And one of the deepest core values of the Olympic Movement is ‘sports as a human right.’ Nothing should ever stand in the way of that.”

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