The IOC referred the Blade to a portion of the Olympic Charter adopted in 2001 that states “no form of publicity or propaganda, commercial or otherwise, may appear on persons, on sportswear, accessories or, more generally, on any article of clothing or equipment whatsoever worn or used by the athletes or other participants in the Olympic Games” outside of a manufacturer’s logo.
“This rule has been in place for many years and aims to separate sport from politics, honor the context of the Olympic games and ensure the peaceful gathering of athletes from over 200 nations, officials and spectators from all kinds of different cultures and backgrounds,” the IOC told the Blade in a statement. “By its nature, the Olympic games cannot become a platform for any kind of demonstration and the IOC will not accept any proactive gesture that could harm their spirit and jeopardize their future.”
The Olympic Charter further states any athlete who violates the aforementioned rule could face disqualification or loss of their accreditation at the Sochi games.
The IOC Executive Board’s decisions “shall be final,” but the Olympic body told the Blade it would “always treat case individually and take a sensible approach depending on what was said or done.” The IOC did not respond to a follow-up question about what other potential sanctions an athlete who publicly criticizes the law while competing in Sochi could face.
The IOC’s comments come amid widespread outrage over Russia’s ban on gay propaganda that President Vladimir Putin signed into law in June.
Actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein last month called for a boycott of the Sochi games. Author Dan Savage and LGBT rights advocate Cleve Jones are among those who have called for a boycott of Russian vodka.
Andy Cohen on Wednesday told E! News he turned down a request to co-host the 2013 Miss Universe pageant that will take place in Moscow in November, in part, because “he didn’t feel right as a gay man stepping foot into Russia.”
Gay Olympic diver Greg Louganis, who was unable to compete in the 1980 Summer Olympics in the Russian capital because then-President Jimmy Carter boycotted them over the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan the year, is among those who feel the U.S. should compete in the Sochi games. President Obama, retired tennis champion Martina Navratilova and a coalition of LGBT advocacy groups that include Outsports.com also oppose an Olympic boycott.
Gay New Zealand speed skater Blake Skjellerup last month announced he will wear a Pride pin while in Sochi.
American runner Nick Symmonds on August 13 criticized the gay propaganda ban during an interview with the Russian news agency RIA Novosti after he completed the men’s 800 meter final at the International Association of Athletics Federations World Championship in Moscow. Figure skater Johnny Weir, whose husband is of Russian descent, told CBS News earlier this month he is “not afraid of being arrested” while at the Sochi games.
IOC has ‘received assurances’ from Russian government over law
The IOC reiterated to the Blade its previous statements that said it has “received assurances” from the highest level of the Russian government that the gay propaganda ban will “not affect those attending or taking part” in the Sochi games.
The Russian Interior Ministry said in a statement it released on August 12 that it would enforce the law during the Olympics. Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko told reporters during a Moscow press conference last week that those who continue to criticize the statute need to “calm down.”
The IOC did not return the Blade’s follow-up request for comment on Mutko’s statements. It also did not respond to an additional question about Navratilova and others who maintain the IOC should have never awarded Russia the 2014 Winter Olympics because of concerns over its human rights record.
“The International Olympic Committee is clear that sport is a human right and should be available to all regardless of race, sex or sexual orientation,” the IOC told the Blade. “The games themselves should be open to all, free of discrimination and that applies to spectators, officials, media and of course athletes. We would oppose in the strongest terms any move that would jeopardize this principle.”