Olympics Committee member: ‘Russia must respect the Olympic Charter, or we will say goodbye to them’

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During an interview with a senior member of the International Olympics Committee (IOC) from last week, the question of whether to relocate the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics because of recently introduced anti-gay laws, was raised for the first time.

Speaking in an interview with the Associated Press on Thursday, senior IOC member, Gerhard Heiberg of Norway, suggested that Russia could lose the games if it did not adhere to the Olympic Charter, which the country signed upon agreeing to host the event.

“They have accepted the words of the Olympic Charter and the host city contract, so either they respect it or we have to say goodbye to them,” he said.

According to the AP article in the Denver Post, Heiberg, who organised the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, and who is chairman of the IOC marketing commission, said the organisation should keep out of Russian domestic politics, but that it had to stand firm on the issues surrounding Sochi.

He did go on to say that it would be difficult to relocate, or postpone the games, due to take place next February, as it takes years to organise such an event.

The Olympic Charter reads: “The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practising sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.”

This statement comes amid a confusion of statements from both the IOC and the Russian Interior Ministry.

Today the Interior Ministry confirmed that recently introduced anti-gay legislation will remain in force during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

On Friday, IOC president Jacques Rogge reaffirmed his organisation’s commitment to  a Winter Olympics free of all discrimination following calls from such names as Stephen Fry and Tory MP Mike Freer to either relocate or outright boycott the games altogether.

The law has so far sparked controversy among LGBT activists, with some calling for a boycott of the 2014 Games. Others have also called to boycott Russian vodka as a form of protest.

Also last week, the Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko told the world to “calm down” over Russia’s recently passed laws.

A petition which has gathered over 150,000 signatures, calls for the 2014 games to be relocated to Vancouver, following the passage of anti-gay laws in Russia.

President Vladimir Putin signed the law in June banning the promotion of “non-traditional relationships” toward minors, a move that has been criticised as part of a broader crackdown on Russia’s gay community. Other laws banning the adoption of Russian children by foreign same-sex couples, and one which enables organisations receiving funding from abroad to be fined as “foreign agents”, were also passed.