olympics
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International Olympics Committee Asks Russia To Provide “Clarification” About Anti-LGBT Law

As the IOC asks for more information from the Russian Government, some LGBT activists say that the committee is simply not doing enough.

IOC President Jacques Rogge Harold Cunningham / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The head of the International Olympic Committee spoke out Friday about Russia’s anti-LGBT law, saying that the Russians are providing continued assurances that the “propaganda” law will not affect the Olympics, but added that further clarification is still needed.

“We have received all reassurances emanating from Mr. Dmitry Kozak, who is in charge of the organisation of the Games in Sochi. We asked for written confirmation of these reassurances. We received them yesterday, we have studied it this morning but there are still uncertainties and we have decided to ask for more clarification as of today,” IOC president Jacques Rogge said at a news conference Friday, Reuters reported.

“So we are waiting for this clarification before having final judgement on these reassurances.”

All Out, the LGBT organization that delivered more than 300,000 signatures on a petition urging the IOC to act to oppose the law and ensure athletes and spectators’ safety earlier this week, was pleased.

“This is the strongest and most direct statement we have received from the International Olympic Committee. It shows the IOC is listening to the global outcry against these laws and demanding real answers, not propaganda, from the Russian government,” Andre Banks, executive director of All Out, said in a statement.

“When he mentions the importance of freedom of expression, Rogge is right. Fundamental freedoms are eroded for all Russians — gay and straight — under these laws. Pierre de Coubertin created the Games with the dream of ‘changing the world through sport’. In that spirit, we are calling for the IOC to clearly denounce the anti-gay law and do everything in its power to see that it is removed before the Olympics.”

Brian Ellner, a board member of Athlete Ally — a group working to end homophobia and transphobia in sports — remained concerned.

“Today’s IOC statements are troubling on many levels. First, despite continued ‘assurances’ from the Russians the IOC itself remains confused as to whether these anti-LGBT propaganda laws will be enforced against athletes and fans,” Ellner told BuzzFeed.

“Second, and equally important, while the safety of athletes and fans is important, we are also seeking a clear condemnation of the propaganda laws from the IOC. After the games are long gone the Russian LGBT community will still be living under these cruel laws and it’s time for the IOC and the world to voice loud and clear condemnation as a matter of human rights and fundamental fairness,” he added.

The You Can Play Project’s Patrick Burke said he agreed with Ellner on the bigger picture for Russia, but did say he saw the Russians moving toward accommodating the larger world at the Olympics.

“The Russians have zero interest in drawing more attention to their laws by arresting foreign nationals. Barring an athlete severely provoking the Russians into a response, every athlete will be able to compete without fear,” Burke told BuzzFeed. “Concerns about athlete safety are being dramatically overstated and concerns about the safety of the Russian LGBT community after we leave are being dramatically understated.”

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Chris Geidner is the legal editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, D.C. Geidner covers the Supreme Court and also reports extensively on LGBT legal issues around the country. Geidner won the 2014 National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association award for journalist of the year.
Contact this reporter at chris.geidner@buzzfeed.com
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