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Russia says gay athletes will be welcome at 2014 Winter Olympics

August 22, 2013|By David Wharton
  • Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak told the International Olympic Committee that athletes of all sexual orientations would be welcome at the 2014 Games in Sochi. Above, Kozak, left, and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev during a visit to Sochi this month.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak told the International Olympic… (Dmitry Astakhov / European…)

The Russian government, facing mounting pressure over its new anti-gay law, said Thursday that athletes of all sexual orientations would be welcome at the 2014 Sochi Games.

In a letter to the International Olympic Committee, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak said Russia would comply with the Olympic Charter, which states that discrimination is incompatible with the Olympic movement. 

"In particular, legislation of the Russian Federation does not stipulate any restrictions or differentiation of the rights and responsibilities of citizens on the basis of sexual orientation," Kozak wrote. "Discrimination against sexual minorities, just as any other discrimination, is expressly forbidden by the constitution of the Russian Federation."

The letter, however, did not say whether athletes who openly show support for gay rights would face consequences under the law, which prohibits disseminating "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations." The legislation threatens criminal prosecution for discussing gay rights around children or making a public display, such as a parade, in support of gay rights.

International leaders including President Obama have criticized the law, and the IOC had asked for assurances that the measure would not infringe on the Winter Games.

On Thursday, the IOC indicated that it was satisfied with Kozak's letter.

"The International Olympic Committee has today received strong written reassurances from the Russian government that everyone will be welcome at the Games in Sochi regardless of their sexual orientation," the IOC said in a statement.

At the recent track-and-field world championships in Moscow, Swedish high jumper Emma Green Tregaro painted her fingernails in rainbow colors. Similar exhibitions could take place at Sochi.

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