Olympics committee can't do anything about Russia's anti-gay law, president says

The Baltimore Sun

Amid growing concern from sponsors over the 2014 Sochi Olympics, International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge acknowledged his organization does not have the authority to influence the enforcement or repeal of Russia's "gay propaganda" law.

At a press conference last Wednesday, Rogge said the IOC "cannot be expected to have an influence on sovereign affairs of a country," the Associated Press reports.

That's a fairly candid statement for the chief of a body that touts "sport for all" as part of its mission statement and looks to "build a better world by developing programs that provide concrete responses to social inequality." And it's an admission that makes sense, since it shifts the burden of international pressure away from Rogge and the IOC, and onto foreign governments and world leaders.

On the other hand, Rogge was once more presented with an opportunity to condemn Russia's anti-gay attitudes, and he declined -- yet again. Despite acknowledging the IOC has "on various occasions, expressed our view on situations in countries," neither Rogge nor an IOC spokesman have done so.

In fact, months after issuing a statement in July reinforcing its commitment to discrimination-free Olympic games, the IOC's response to Russia's anti-gay legislation remains limited to discussing what will happen in Sochi.

At Wednesday's news conference, Rogge once more stated that the Russian government has assured the IOC that its law won't discriminate against Olympic participants or spectators.

He also said the IOC would "consider" removing Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva from her post as an Olympic Village mayor after she criticized Swedish athletes for supporting LGBT rights and claimed Russia didn't have "any problems" with homosexuality. (Isinbayeva later said her comments, delivered in non-native English, were misunderstood.)

Those are steps in the right direction. But by this point, the Sochi Olympics and anti-LGBT discrimination have become so closely linked that the head of the Sochi organizing committee reportedly asked the IOC to "stop this campaign and speculation" over the Russian legislation.

Rogge and his colleagues have certainly tried, and in an effort to keep politics out of the Olympics, they've stated multiple times that the Olympic Charter prevents athletes from using the event as a platform for political statements.

Both that call for silence and the IOC's own amount to tacit support of a law which is unarguably discriminatory. "Sport for all" and the values the slogan embodies only apply, apparently, when it's convenient.

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