The Associated Press on Thursday reported a member of the International Olympic Committee who is charged with overseeing preparations for the upcoming 2014 Winter Games said the IOC is “fully satisfied” that Russia’s gay propaganda to minors ban does not violate the Olympic charter.
The news agency reported Jean-Claude Killy, chair of the IOC Coordination Commission, made the comments during a press conference in Sochi, Russia. The news agency said Killy indicated the committee also concluded “the IOC doesn’t have the right to discuss the… laws that are in place in the country hosting the games” unless they clearly violate the Olympic charter.
Killy’s comments come against growing outrage over the gay propaganda law and Russia’s overall LGBT rights record that threatens to overshadow the Sochi games that will take place in February.
Actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein and others have called for a boycott of the Olympics. Author Dan Savage and LGBT rights advocate Cleve Jones are among those who have called for a boycott of Russian vodka.
President Obama, who met with Russian LGBT rights advocates during the G-20 summit that took place in St. Petersburg earlier this month, opposes any boycott of the Sochi games. Retired tennis champion Martina Navratilova, gay Olympic diver Greg Louganis and a coalition of LGBT advocacy groups that include Outsports.com have also taken a similar position.
U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) last week criticized the Kremlin over its gay rights record in an op-ed the Russian online newspaper Pravda published. Cher told Reuters on September 17 she turned down a request to perform at the Sochi games because of Russia’s gay propaganda law.
Russian police on Wednesday arrested a group of LGBT rights advocates who tried to stage a gay Pride event outside the Sochi games’ headquarters in Moscow.
An IOC spokesperson provided the Washington Blade with a statement about the IOC Coordination Commission’s latest trip to Sochi to oversee preparations for the games. It did not include any references to the gay propaganda law and Russia’s LGBT rights record.
The IOC later told the Blade the AP misquoted Killy during the Sochi press conference, saying he said “as long as the Olympic Charter is respected, we are satisfied.”
“That is clearly not expressing any view on the law itself, and Mr. Killy made it abundantly clear that the IOC never comments on national legislation,” the Olympic body said.
The IOC added it “will continue to work to uphold the Olympic Charter, which allows all participants, from spectators to athletes, to attend the games regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation.”
Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin is among those who criticized Killy’s remarks on Thursday.
“If this law doesn’t violate the IOC’s charter, then the charter is completely meaningless,” Griffin said. “The safety of millions of LGBT Russians and international travelers is at risk, and by all accounts the IOC has completely neglected its responsibility to Olympic athletes, sponsors and fans from around the world.”
Members of COC Nederland, a Dutch LGBT advocacy group, on September 17 met with members of the National Olympic Committee of the Netherlands to discuss their concerns over the safety of LGBT athletes who will compete in the games and others who will travel to Sochi. They also requested a meeting with Dutch IOC member Camiel Eurlings to address the aforementioned issues.
COC Nederland President Tanja Ineke on Thursday said her organization is “outraged” by Killy’s comments on Russia’s gay propaganda law.
“This conclusion is unheard of,” she said. “The European Union, Council of Europe, United Nations and numerous governments have all clearly stated that this law is discriminatory and an infringement of the human rights of LGBT people. The IOC disregards these conclusions and instead chooses to be the accomplice of the homophobic Russian government.”
Ineke added her organization will “urgently” ask Eurlings to “protest” the IOC’s position on the law.