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Topics In the News
International Olympic Charter Worthless
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 09/27/13
Last updated on: 09/27/13
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These two Russian protesters were arrested seconds after unfurling this banner in Moscow on September 25, 2013.

On September 26, 2013, the chairman of the International Olympics Committee, Jean-Claude Killy, said that the IOC is "fully satisfied" that Russia's anti-gay laws do not violate the Olympic Charter, which prohibits discrimination. Claiming that the IOC lacks the authority to criticize a host-country's laws if they do not violate the Olympic Charter, Killy added, "As long as the Olympic Charter is respected, we are satisfied." In response, Chad Griffin and Hudson Taylor denounced the IOC for rendering the Olympic Charter worthless.

Killy made the statement from Sochi, where the International Olympics Committee is inspecting preparations for the 2014 Winter Games scheduled to open in February. Ironically, even as he issued his statement, Russian police were busy arresting demonstrators against the repulsive laws.

The Russian government repeatedly has stated that because their anti-gay laws, which prohibit any public expression of homosexuality, apply to everyone, they are not discriminatory. While some Russian officials have said that the law prohibiting promotion of "nontraditional" sexual relations will not be enforced against athletes and visitors at the Olympics, others have said that they will be. In addition, Russian officials have announced that all demonstrations and protests will be prohibited during the Winter Games.

The anti-gay laws have sparked an alarming upsurge of violence against glbtq people in Russia. The pogrom underway in Russia has been denounced by activists, as well as by international leaders such as President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron. Harvey Fierstein and Stephen Fry, among many others, have called for a boycott of the Sochi Games.

In an email issued after Killy's statement that the IOC was "satisfied" that Russia's laws do not violate the Olympic Charter, Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said, "That means the IOC won't take any action that could help protect millions of LGBT Russians and international travelers--including Olympic athletes--all of whom are at risk of persecution under this law."

Griffin went on to accuse the IOC of having "completely neglected its responsibility to athletes, corporate sponsors, and fans from around the world, simultaneously turning its back on its own moral code."

Griffin points out that the Olympic charter clearly states 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." He says that the IOC's failure to guarantee enforcement of the Charter "flies in the face of the IOC's clearly stated mission "to act against any form of discrimination affecting the Olympic Movement."

Hudson Taylor, founder of Athlete Ally, also sharply criticized the IOC's inaction. Taylor, a three-time All-American wrestler at the University of Maryland and currently a wrestling coach at Columbia University, founded Athlete Ally in 2011 with the mission "of educating, encouraging and empowering straight athlete allies to combat homophobia and transphobia in sports."

He issued the following statement: "When given the choice to stand up and affirm Principle 6 of the Olympic charter, the IOC simply backed down. And so we now head into uncharted territory in Sochi, a place where LGBT people--and others trying to support them--will be subject to persecution because of these heinous laws passed after Sochi was named the host city."

He added, "Ultimately, enduring this travesty may be the great legacy of the 2014 Games because the complete disconnect between the gay propaganda laws and the Olympic charter is galvanizing people to join together. And together, we can change a sports culture, which is apparently not only rife with homophobia, but in need of a serious priority check. Standing up for equality is always the right thing to do."

The video below documents the arrests of activists demonstrating in Sochi.

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