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Russia's assurances anti-gay laws won’t apply to Winter Olympics has skeptics

HRC's Chad Griffin says 'verbal assurances from the Russian government ... are not enough'
The Russian government has given assurances that 2014 Winter Olympics will be exempt from the anti-gay laws.

The International Olympic Committee is saying gay athletes and visitors apparently have nothing to fear come the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.

The IOC says it has received ‘assurances from the highest level’ from Russia’s government that athletes and visitors would be exempt from the country’s anti-gay laws.

But not everyone is so sure.

Fred Sainz, vice president for communications of leading US organization Human Rights Campaign, says: ‘Unfortunately platitudes won’t do away with these heinous laws that are an abomination to LGBT people.

‘NBC has an obligation to provide fair and balanced coverage of Russia. It would not be an accurate depiction of the environment for the Olympics to merely be a commercial for the Russian Federation. History demands that NBC depict the truth.’

HRC president Chad Griffin added: ‘Mere verbal assurances from the Russian government that foreigners will be exempt from their repressive laws are not enough. The IOC must obtain ironclad written assurance from President Putin.

‘But more importantly, they should be advocating for the safety of all LGBT people in Russia, not simply those visiting for the Olympics. Rescinding this heinous law must be our collective goal.’

The IOC, which is responsible for selecting the country where the Olympics will take place, is facing calls from activists to boycott the event in light of Russia’s controversial law banning any people or activity perceived to promote homosexuality.

Last month, Russian president Vladimir Putin signed the ‘gay propaganda’ bill into law, in effect legalizing homophobia by criminalizing pro-gay material and events like pride marches.

Enforcement of the law has already resulted in attacks on gay teens and the arrest of four gay Dutch filmmakers producing a documentary about gay rights in Russia.

The IOC said: ‘This legislation has just been passed into law and it remains to be seen whether and how it will be implemented, particularly as regards the Games in Sochi.'

The IOC also said: ‘As a sporting organization, what we can do is to continue to work to ensure that the Games can take place without discrimination against athletes, officials, spectators and the media.’

‘To that end, the IOC has received assurances from the highest level of government in Russia that the legislation will not affect those attending or taking part in the Games.’

NBC Universal, the US media company with exclusive rights to broadcast the 2014 Winter Olympics, responded to questions about covering the event while the anti-gay laws are enforced.

Buzzfeed received a statement from NBC Universal senior vice president of corporate communications Cameron Blanchard that said: ‘NBC Universal strongly supports equal rights and the fair treatment for all people.

‘The spirit of the Olympic Games is about unifying people and countries through the celebration of sport and it is our hope that spirit will prevail.’

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