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Putin: Gays welcome in Sochi for Olympics

Putin: Gays welcome in Sochi for Olympics

Russian President Vladimir Putin is saying gays are welcome at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

With his country’s widely-criticized anti-gay propaganda law still in place, Putin on Monday (28 October) for the first time appeared to be making some kind of gesture to the LGBTI community as the worldwide sporting event draws closer.

‘We are doing everything, both the organizers and our athletes and fans, so that participants and guests feel comfortable in Sochi, regardless of nationality, race or sexual orientation,’ Reuters reports Putin telling Thomas Bach, the head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Bach is in Sochi to attend the IOC’s World Conference on Sport and Environment. It is his first visit to Russia as the new IOC leader.

But pressure remains on Russia and the IOC from groups including Human Rights Watch to repeal the law that makes it illegal to display any show of public support for homosexuality.

‘With the Sochi Games now 100 days away, time is running out for the IOC and President Bach to urge Russia to clean up its abusive laws and practices,’ Jane Buchanan, associate director for Europe and Central Asia at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement Monday.

‘There can be no grand celebration of the upcoming Games when Russia has so blatantly trampled the Olympic principles of human dignity and nondiscrimination,’ Buchanan added. 

Russia will host the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in the Black Sea resort town of Sochi from 7-23 February, 2014.