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  • Top Story Replay -- IOC President Reacts to Putin Comments on Anti-Gay Law


    The IOC president spoke to ATR at the Radisson Blu hotel on Sochi's Olympic Park (ATR/M.Bisson)
    (ATR) Thomas Bach tells Around the Rings he is “very satisfied” with Vladimir Putin’s fresh commitment to ensuring there is no discrimination against gays at the Sochi Olympics.

    At a meeting in Sochi on Monday, Putin said Russia was doing everything to ensure participants and guests feel comfortable in Sochi “regardless of nationality, race or sexual orientation”.

    Speaking exclusively to ATR at Sochi’s Olympic Park, Bach welcomed the Russian president’s attempts to defuse the controversy over the anti-gay law that threatens to blight the Games.

    “You cannot be clearer than he was yesterday both in the meeting and then afterwards saying that everybody is welcome and that there will not be any kind of discrimination in the Games,” the German said, in his first comments about the issue during his stay in the Black Sea resort.

    “This is absolutely clear. We are very satisfied with this confirmation of his position.”

    In June, Russia passed a controversial law prohibiting gay “propaganda” among minors, sparking criticism from human rights groups and LBGT activists and leading to some calls to boycott the Games.

    Despite Putin’s effort to defuse the controversy, demonstrations are expected in the weeks before and during the Games.

    Asked what his message was for gay rights groups and athletes planning to stage protests,
    Bach said, “I will not speculate now. What I can say is that there is the clear commitment of Russia expressed by its head of state that the Olympic Charter will apply in the Olympic Games and that there will not be any kind of discrimination.”

    Bach yesterday praised Sochi 2014 organizers after holding talks with Putin about Games preparations. He reiterated those sentiments today.

    “You can clearly see and feel the great commitment the president has to this Games,” he told ATR.

    Bach noted the scale of changes he had seen in Sochi since his last visits, one a couple of months ago and another for a meeting last year. Before that, he was in Sochi for the IOC’s evaluation commission visit when the Black Sea resort was a candidate for the 2002 Olympics.

    “I can see the progress. Yesterday I met the leading staff of the organizing committee. You feel the commitment of everybody involved,” he told ATR.

    “We know as always the last stretch is a demanding one but given the commitment, the experience and what has been achieved so far we are very, very confident that we will have great Games in February.”

    Bach spent the morning in meetings with senior Russian Olympic officials. He was spotted in deep conversation with Russian IOC member Vitaly Smirnov and Russian Olympic Committee president Alexander Zhukov at the Radisson Blu hotel.

    The IOC president then took a tour of the Olympic Park venues.

    Jean-Claude Killy, head of the IOC’s Sochi 2014 watchdog, and Olympic Games executive director Gilbert Felli were involved in meetings with Sochi 2014 organisers this morning. They joined Bach on the Olympic Park tour in the afternoon.

    Reported by Mark Bisson in Sochi

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