Gay visitors to next year’s Winter Olympics will be welcomed just as warmly as everyone else despite Russia’s controversial legislation on homosexuality, President Vladimir Putin said Monday.
In June, Putin signed into law a bill forbidding the promotion of homosexuality to minors, which has given rise to calls from some activists to boycott the February 7-23 Olympics in Sochi.
While the law’s proponents argue that it is aimed at protecting children from harmful influences, critics allege that the move restricts freedom of speech and is part of a broader crackdown on Russia’s gay community.
“We will do everything … so that both the participants and guests feel comfortable in Sochi, regardless of ethnicity, racial heritage or sexual orientation,” Putin said at a meeting in Sochi with new International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach.
The IOC head said his organization was “very satisfied” by the preparations for the Sochi Games, in what is Bach’s first visit to the host city since becoming president. He did not comment on the gay issue, although he told R-Sport last month that he did not want the Games to “ be a marketplace for demonstrations for all potential issues in the world, even if they are the best ones.”
Putin has previously said there will be no “discrimination against people on any basis whatsoever” at the Games. Russia’s Interior Ministry, which controls the police, has vowed to enforce the controversial anti-gay law at the Olympics.
Bach is in Sochi for the IOC’s World Conference on Sport and the Environment, which runs from Wednesday to Friday.