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U.S. Olympic Committee Addresses Safety Of American Athletes In Sochi

US Olympic Letter
With recent controversy erupting over various anti-gay hostilities taking place in Russia, many have expressed their concerns for the safety and well-being of LGBT athletes who will be competing in the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. The International Olympic Committee has already released a statement saying that it has "received assurances from the highest level of government in Russia that the legislation will not affect those attending or taking part in the Games." At least one Russian lawmaker, however, has already made it clear that he wishes for the country's anti-gay propaganda ban to be enforced during the games, a law that has already been used to arrest four Dutch LGBT activists visiting the country. 

Now, the U.S. Olympic Committee is joining the discussion. In a letter dated July 25, 2013, and published by BuzzFeed yesterday, Committee CEO Scott Blackmun assures that:

"The Olympic Charter prohibits any form of discrimination and clearly calls out the practice of sport as a human right that should be available to all. Like us, the IOC recognizes the seriousness of this issue."

The letter, also promises that the committee is "engaged in active discussions with the International Olympic Committee and the U.S. State Department" about how to ensure the safety of "every American in Sochi". As to whether this response is deemed satisfactory by American LGBT athletes remains to be seen. 

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  1. So inadequate.

    "We'll make sure our athletes and visitors don't have to step over the bodies of dead Russian gay boys."

    Posted by: Wisebear | Jul 31, 2013 8:59:35 AM

  2. The IOC is lying. Don't believe a word it says.

    Posted by: Adam | Jul 31, 2013 9:04:39 AM

  3. While they may think that Russian officials will refrain from harming any gay people attending the Olympics, that will NOT protect LGBT visitors from the increasingly virulent attacks by thugs who are emboldened by the attitudes of the Russian government.

    Posted by: Voet | Jul 31, 2013 9:06:31 AM

  4. They will do everything they can to stall and make sure nothing stops the Olympics from happening in Russia. COWARDS!

    Posted by: Mighty | Jul 31, 2013 9:22:27 AM

  5. I'm sure this is a huge relief to the 4 million to 14 million LGBT Russians citizens that it completely ignores.

    Posted by: Eric | Jul 31, 2013 9:28:11 AM

  6. I think they should leave the ban in place. If it's good enough for their gay citizens to suffer under every day it should be good enough for visitors. Let them deal with the public relations nightmare they've created. This isn't about comfort for visitors, it's about recognition of everyday treatment of gay citizens.

    However, people may not want to visit their country if they are treated to an "authentic" Russian experiance.

    Posted by: Hey Darlin' | Jul 31, 2013 9:31:21 AM

  7. We've seen the pictures of gay men and boys being attacked by groups of men. People passing by just ignore the poor men as they are being tortured. Police do nothing about these attackers despite the fact that their faces are clear and posted on social networks. These group of men are who the IOC should be worrying about.

    Posted by: Mike in the tundra | Jul 31, 2013 9:33:27 AM

  8. This is not good enough. The proper response to this is to not hold the olympics in that country. A clear message need to be sent: the Russian attitude toward LGBT people is unacceptable. Do not send any athletes to Russia.

    Posted by: MJ | Jul 31, 2013 10:03:18 AM

  9. It sounds like Russia is having a hard time controlling their citizens to me. Many of the Neo-Nazi (just one part of the problem) factions are either not able to be controlled or allowed to follow their own laws.

    How can the IOC promise that A: Russian government itself will be controlled, in it's currently corrupt state and B: They can control the citizens of Russia through their govenment, which already lacks control.

    There are many many more victims of the Neo-Nazi party, than just the gay citizens. Are they also insuring their safety? Where's THAT letter?

    Posted by: Hey Darlin' | Jul 31, 2013 10:07:52 AM

  10. Real question: I wonder if the US is not taking a more definitive stance regarding this because of the precarious situation with Snowden being in Russia.

    Posted by: Josh | Jul 31, 2013 10:17:33 AM

  11. In other words, they're doing NOTHING but issuing patronizing statements.

    Posted by: Skeptical Cicada | Jul 31, 2013 10:27:27 AM

  12. The fact that this sort of neanderthal behavior has entirely soured me on even watching the Olympics. I cannot in in good conscious, even inadvertently, support the dangerous discrimination of the host country. People's lives are much more important to me than sport. If this crap continues, I will not be watching the Olympics and have let NBC know. Have you written your letter to them? Russians have a right to live in whatever type of country they wish, but I don't have to support their ridiculous choices on how they treat people. My choice is to let Russia remain the discriminatory, third-world country that it is. I feel for the athletes, but feel strongly that this is an issue that is more important than "winning" or a medal.

    Posted by: noteasilyoffended | Jul 31, 2013 10:31:14 AM

  13. no russian olympics for me in 2014. if anyone at nbc or the olympic organiziations had a single ball between them, they would pressure russia into putting their declaration of "athlete safety during the games" into writing, or cancel the games over safety and human rights concerns.

    that would be one hit to the pocketbook that russia wouldn't recover from as quickly as lost tax revenue from vodka sales. if there's a human rights or athlete safety clause in the broadcasting contract (i suspect there is something that applies), nbc has their out in writing. nbc might lose potential profits, but could walk away with their dignity in tact, while sending a strong message to putin.

    Posted by: northalabama | Jul 31, 2013 10:58:51 AM

  14. Either way, Russia has totally screwed itself. Hopefully, IMO, they keep the ban in place.

    Posted by: Michael | Jul 31, 2013 11:18:05 AM

  15. While there is discussion about the US boycotting the Games, why doesn't the IOC consider canceling the Games in Russia and moving them to Vancouver? Canada has the facilities that they built for the 2010 Olympics, so they are modern and up to date.

    Yes, this probably won't happen. But it sure would put a scare into the Russians and solve the problem about the gay athletes who might boycott the Games.

    Posted by: gr8guyca | Jul 31, 2013 12:46:32 PM

  16. What a crock.

    Of course, as they note, it is not the first games being held in a backass, homophobic location with anti-gay laws on the books.

    (The 1996 in Atlanta, GA comes to mind).

    Posted by: DC Insider | Jul 31, 2013 12:54:15 PM

  17. assurances assurances. blah blah blah. remember Munich!

    Posted by: deedrdo | Jul 31, 2013 1:01:42 PM

  18. The history of the IOC regarding gay issues is not very good. In the 80's they sued Tom Wadell into poverty (as he was dying from AIDS) over the use of the word Olympics. Wadell founded the Gay Olympics which was forced to change it's name to Gay Games even though the Pig Olympics, Diaper Olympics, Fill In The Blank Olympics etc etc were not sued. (The lawyer defending the IOC? Ironically, Judge Walker of Prop 8 fame). My guess is that the IOC will be telling gay Olympians to get into the closet for the games, you know, for their own safety. Gay visitors to Sochi - you are on your own.

    Posted by: stevenj | Jul 31, 2013 2:12:36 PM

  19. Actually Atlanta did did not have anti-gay laws on the books. It was the county to the north of Atlanta, Cobb County, which is also where Newt Gingrich is from. There was also a group called "Olympics out of Cobb" which successfully got the volleyball rounds that were supposed to be held in Cobb county pulled out and the Torch relay was re-routed to go around Cobb county. There are a lot of backwater areas around Atlanta but the community in Atlanta did not stand for that during their Olympics.

    Posted by: Mack | Jul 31, 2013 2:52:03 PM

  20. The Olympics are still six months away. There is still time for parties involved to come up with a solution. If you believe that this statement is the only thing the USOC is doing, you're being naive.

    The quickest way to end diplomatic relations between two parties is for one of them to publicize everything that is happening behind-the-scenes. Lack of information doesn't necessarily mean that nothing is happening.

    Thanks to the US, the Olympics now have a massive for-profit financial component. (I think that's a bad thing; but, that's a different discussion.) The big sponsors and Comcast are certainly talking to the USOC and IOC in order to protect their investments. Put down the pitchforks and let the people involved keep working.

    Posted by: alex | Jul 31, 2013 4:38:50 PM

  21. If you go, you are putting yourself at risk.

    Don't do it for nothing. Ensure that whatever happens to you is captured on video.

    Posted by: Randy | Jul 31, 2013 6:30:46 PM

  22. If the IOC wants to prove it, then they should revisit the matter of the Russian ban on having a Sochi Pride House as requested by Pride House International.

    Press releases & news from Pride House International July 31:

    Posted by: Rexford | Jul 31, 2013 8:57:01 PM

  23. This is ludicrous. The Olympic Committee cannot guarantee a thing if the games go on in Sochi. Athletes will be at risk in Russia if they do anything that the local police feel advances the cause of human rights. I figure there will be at least one dead athlete and several others injured by homophobes in that country.

    Move the games to Vancouver. They have the infrastructure and it's a much safer place for all, and that will do a hundred times more to show Russia she is out of step with the rest of the world.

    Posted by: Kyle Michel Sullivan | Jul 31, 2013 9:54:37 PM

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