An official boycott of next year’s Russian Winter Olympics has been ruled out by the International Olympic Committee over the weekend despite continuing concerns held over Russia’s new nationwide laws that prohibit so-called ‘gay propaganda’ with fears that it will also apply to visiting gay athletes and supporters.
The newly installed president of the IOC, Thomas Bach, told reporters at the traditional lighting of the flame ceremony in Greece that the organisation – although against discrimination – did not have the means to discuss the laws of sovereign nations.
“The IOC is not meant to be a government who imposes laws and regulations,” Bach said.
“But we are very clear that we will not tolerate any form of discrimination. The task of the IOC is that the Olympic charter is applied 100 percent.”
Greens leader Christine Milne and US celebrity activist George Takei are among the most prominent examples of a large number of high-profile people, locally and overseas, to have called for a boycott of the event in recent months.
The decision from the IOC came as its team of officials late last week visited the Russian city of Sochi for its tenth and final inspection ahead of the Games, due to commence on February 7.
Jean-Claude Killy, chairman of the IOC Coordination Commission, said during the visit that the committee had deliberated for a number of days before coming to its conclusions.
“The IOC doesn’t have the right to discuss the laws that are in place in the country hosting the games, so unless the charter is violated we are fully satisfied,” Killy said.
The legislation outlawing public discussion and the promotion of “non-traditional sex” was signed into law by President Vladimir Putin in June. Two months later, the Russian Government introduced an extra decree prohibiting all demonstrations and protest rallies in Sochi for almost three months at about the time the Games will commence.
Situated on the Black Sea coast, it is expected the Sochi Games will be the most expensive Olympics in history with construction of the sports venues and infrastructure for the city, such as new hotels, to cost $51 billion in total.
Calls have been made by some activists for corporate sponsors such as Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Visa and McDonalds to not be involved with the Games when they commence next February or risk having their products boycotted. Other official sponsors include Samsung, Panasonic, Omega, General Electric, Dow Chemical, Procter & Gamble and Atos.
Photo: © International Olympic Committee