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Sexual orientation should be protected in Olympic charter, urge LGBT sport groups

Pride House International calls on the International Olympic Committee to protect LGBT athletes from discrimination ahead of the Sochi Winter Olympics
Sport groups are seeking additional protections for LGBT athletes participating in the Sochi Winter Olympics.

Sport groups are seeking added protections for LGBT athletes participating in Olympic events.

Pride House International, a coalition of human rights and sport organizations, is urging the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to include sexual orientation and gender identity in its charter.

Currently, only race, religion, politics and gender are included under the charter’s criteria for which discrimination is prohibited.

In recent weeks, opposition to Russia hosting the Olympics has increased since Vladimir Putin signed anti-gay laws that punish promotion of ‘homosexual propaganda’ with fines and imprisonment.

World leaders including US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron said they prefer not to boycott the 2014 Winter Olympics despite Russia’s anti-gay laws.

Cameron tweeted earlier this week: ‘I believe we can better challenge prejudices as we attend, rather than boycotting the Winter Olympics.’

In addition to adding sexual orientation to the Olympic Charter, Pride House International proposed ‘countries that discriminate persons on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, or any other criteria, should not be qualified to bid for or host Olympic Games.’

The groups also suggest that a Pride House should be on the ground at Sochi and all Olympic events.

These suggestions come after Olympic chief Jacques Rogge said this week in reponse to calls for an Olympic boycott: ‘The Games themselves should be open to all, free of discrimination.’

David McFarland, director of United for Equality in Sport and Entertainment, while encourage by Rogge’s comments, pointed out: ‘Principle 6 of the Charter includes a variety of criteria for which discrimination is prohibited in the Olympic Movement, but sexual orientation and gender identity are not yet among them.’

Shawn Sheridan of OutSport Toronto also said: ‘Dr Rogge's statement, while welcome, highlights an ongoing challenge for the IOC. As long as those at the head of the Olympic Movement fail to clearly reject discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, they will continue to let down athletes.

‘The IOC should be leading the defense of the universal values of fair play and inclusion,’ he added.

Marc Naimark of the Federation of Gay Games said: ‘While this is of little solace to the hundreds of thousands of LGBT Russians who will continue to suffer under repressive local and national laws, it should offer some relief to the foreign athletes competing in Sochi.’

The IOC is currently waiting for further clarification from the Russian government as to how the law banning ‘homosexual propaganda’ will be applied during the Olympics.

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