Thomas Bach Hub

Russian Olympics Chief and IOC President Clash on Athlete Political 'Free Speech' Rules

Dmitry_ChernyshenkoDmitry Chernyshenko, the Russian head of the Sochi Games said today that Olympic athletes should not be allowed to express their political views during news conferences at the games, a position that puts him at odds with IOC President Thomas Bach, Radio Free Europe reports:

Bach said on January 27 that the Olympics "cannot be used as a stage for political demonstrations," but that "athletes enjoy the freedom of speech so if in a press conference they wanted to make a political statement, then they are absolutely free to do so."

Chernyshenko said that athletes could make political statements elsewhere, but not in the Olympic perimeter.

Russia to Create 'Protest Zones' for Sochi Olympic Games

In addition to the announcement that the IOC will send a letter to athletes and participants at the Sochi Games reminding them to refrain from engaging in demonstrations, political gestures, or protests while in Russia, the IOC said Russia will be creating "protest zones" for people to do just that, the L.A. Times reports:

BachThe announcement came during a news teleconference held by International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach.

"This was under discussion with the IOC for quite some time," Bach said. "This is a measure we welcome so that everybody can express his or her opinion."

The Games in Sochi have become particularly controversial because of Russia's recently enacted anti-gay legislation threatening prosecution of anyone who, in the presence of minors, promotes "nontraditional sexual relations."

Critics worldwide have condemned the law as a violation of the right to free expression, saying the measure effectively bans events such as gay rights parades. Bach did not offer any details about the size or location of the zones.

He said Russian officials have assured him protesters will not face negative consequences. "I think this is the purpose of these protest zones," Bach said. "This is what we’ve been discussing with Russian authorities."

IOC to Send Letter to Olympic Athletes Reminding Them to Refrain From Any Protesting In Sochi

NBC Protest

In a letter that will be sent to the national Olympic committees that are sending athletes to the Sochi Games, the IOC is reminding all participants to refrain from engaging in demonstrations, political gestures, or protests while in Russia. ESPN reports:

The memo will focus on Rule 50 in the Olympic Charter, which states: "No kind of demonstration or political, religious, or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas."

"We will give the background of the Rule 50, explaining the interpretation of the Rule 50 to make the athletes aware and to assume them that the athletes will be protected," IOC President Thomas Bach said in an interview with The Associated Press.

The charter says the IOC can take action against -- even expel -- athletes who violate Rule 50, but the committee has said the rule would be "interpreted and applied sensibly and proportionately."

It remains unclear what will happen to athletes who decide to wear a rainbow flag pin or American Apparel's new Principle 6 protest merchandise while at the Games. 

Athlete Ally and AllOut, the activist groups behind Principle 6 responded to the IOC's announcement today.

Said Andre Banks, Executive Director of All Out: "If IOC President Thomas Bach truly cares about principles, he should speak out against the discriminatory Russian laws that clearly violate Principle 6 of the IOC's Charter. These laws not only stigmatize the gay community, they have also ignited a wave of anti-gay violence around the country. It's time to change the Olympic bidding process to ensure that the honor of hosting the Games only goes to countries that respect basic human rights."

Added Hudson Taylor, Executive Director of Athlete Ally: "The 34 Olympians who have joined our campaign feel it is their duty to uphold the Olympic Charter and act in the face of any form of discrimination. Equality is not about politics, it's about principles. The Principle 6 Campaign uses the language of the IOC's founding document to give athletes, fans and global supporters a way to celebrate the Olympic values of non-discrimination and show solidarity with LGBT Russians. How could the IOC object to that?"

IOC President Thomas Bach Asked To Investigate Russia's Anti-Gay Law

6a00d8341c730253ef019b00f04e68970c-300wiReuters reports that Russian gay rights activists met with newly-elected IOC President Thomas Bach during his two day trip to Paris, calling on the IOC to launch an internal investigation as to how Russia's anti-gay laws will impact the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games. Gay rights organization All Out and the IOC confirmed the meeting took place:

"During the meeting, the IOC was urged to launch an independent investigation on the legal implications of the anti gay laws ... as these laws are infringing the Olympic charter and notably the sixth principle of non discrimination," All Out said in statement.

A list of questions that could help steer the investigation was handed to Bach, they added, saying they were expecting the IOC to announce within days whether it would proceed.

Though they did not receive any assurance of an investigation, the activists praised Bach's willingness to listen to their point and urged him to take a stronger stance.

"It was a valuable conversation and we delivered first-hand evidence that a clear and strong action is needed," Anastasia Smirnova, who attended the meeting, told Reuters.

The activists pointed out to Bach that since the anti-gay propaganda law was passed in June, violence against LGBT people in Russia has increased. Other activists and politicians have called on the IOC to denounce Russia's discriminatory laws as fundamentally incompatible with the principles of Olympism, though for their part the IOC has insisted they have "assurances" from the "highest authorities in Russia" that the Olympic Charter, which holds that "Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement," will apply in Sochi. However, in September the IOC announced they were "fully satisfied" that the anti-gay propaganda law does not violate the Olympic Charter.

Senators Urge Olympic Committee to Reconsider its 'Satisfaction' Over Russia's Anti-Gay Laws

Twelve U.S. Senators including Barbara Boxer, Chris Murphy, Jeff Merkley, Dick Durbin, Lisa Murkowski, Jeanne Shaheen, Sheldon Whitehouse, Claire McCaskill, Al Franken, Elizabeth Warren, Chris Coons, and Mark Udall have written to IOC President Thomas Bach asking the IOC to reconsider its position with the Russian government with regard to anti-gay laws and the upcoming Sochi Games.

BachWrite the Senators:

...we write to express our deep concern about the IOC’s recent declaration that “as long as the Olympic Charter is upheld, we are fully satisfied.” We disagree with this position, and strongly urge you to reconsider given that the Russian law banning “homosexual propaganda” is clearly inconsistent with the Olympic Charter.

They also demand more details on enforcement of the laws and what Russia has told the IOC:

1. Have you received official confirmation from the Russian Federation regarding how the law will be enforced—if at all—during the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. For example, will self-identification as an LGBT individual, including via news or social media, be permitted by Russian Federation authorities during these Games? Are you aware of any actions by LGBT individuals or supporters that would put them at risk of prosecution under the discriminatory law by Russian Federation authorities?

2. Will spectators and participants enjoy protection from prosecution under the discriminatory law if they leave the Olympic village host city, including during travel to or from the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in Sochi?

3. What concrete assurances will visitors and athletes have that local law enforcement outside of Sochi will not be permitted to enforce the anti-LGBT law with respect to foreign nationals?

The IOC has a responsibility to ensure that the values of Olympism are upheld and, as the Olympic Charter states, “act against any form of discrimination” —including equal rights for LGBT individuals. This is not an issue of politics; it is an issue of fundamental human rights.

Read the full text of the letter, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Senators Urge Olympic Committee to Reconsider its 'Satisfaction' Over Russia's Anti-Gay Laws" »

Stunning, Emotional Video Presses the IOC to Condemn Anti-Gay Discrimination in Russia: VIDEO


In late October we published a behind-the-scenes teaser for a new film being released by the activist group AllOut to raise awareness about Russia's anti-gay laws and shine a light on the pain that discrimination against LGBT causes athletes.

2_alloutThe clip, which is part of their new #LoveAlwaysWins campaign is out today, and it's amazing.

Watch it, AFTER THE JUMP...

It's directed by Mike Buonaiuto, who directed the "Invisible Parents" campaign for AllOut about the inequality of gay families, as well as "Homecoming", the touching independent short film from the UK's Coalition for Equal Marriage about a gay military homecoming.

The new clip is shot by Leighton Cox and stars Costa Rican actress Silvia Baltodano and English actress Kate Hollowood.

Said Andre Banks, All Out’s Executive Director and Co-Founder:

"Russia’s law makes it unclear whether public displays of affection, coming out on television by mentioning an athlete’s loved one, or even hugging your partner after winning the gold medal could result in fines or deportation. Putin would like us to think gays and lesbians are welcome during the Olympics, but no one will feel safe and welcome while this law is in place. It’s not too late. China made serious concessions ahead of Beijing to ensure the 2008 Olympic Games were consistent with international standards and Russia should not be exempt from doing the same. Russia must overturn the law before the Winter Olympics.”

Watch the clip, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Stunning, Emotional Video Presses the IOC to Condemn Anti-Gay Discrimination in Russia: VIDEO" »


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