New Olympic President has heard ‘assurances of the highest Russian authorities’ on gay issues at Sochi

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The newly appointed International Olympic Committee (IOC) president spoke at the lighting of the Olympic flame ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, to say he had received “assurances of the highest authorities in Russia”, that the Olympic charter will be adhered to during the games.

Thomas Bach gave a speech following the official ceremony in ancient Olympia, mirroring what was said by his predecessor Jacques Rogge, to say that he had been reassured by Russian authorities that when the games take place, the country will adhere to the charter.

He said:”The task of the IOC is to ensure the application of the Olympic Charter at the Olympic Games and for all the participants of Olympic Games. That means we have to ensure a policy of non-discrimination at all levels, for all athletes and for all other participants,

“We have the assurances of the highest authorities in Russia, and yesterday I spoke with the Russian delegation here in Olympia again and they reassured us that the Olympic Charter will fully apply for all the participants of the games.”

Former IOC president Jacques Rogge last month said he was committed to ensuring the Sochi Winter Olympics are accessible to all, despite discriminatory laws enacted in host country Russia.

“The Games themselves must be open to all, this applies to spectators, officials, journalists and, of course, the athletes,” he said.

Bach replaced Rogge, who had held the position of IOC president for 12 years, in a vote this month at the 125th IOC Session in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Sir Ian McKellen last week said Russia’s anti-gay laws are “appalling”, that he would do “almost anything” to help repeal repeal them, but boycotting next year’s Winter Olympics in the Russian city of Sochi is not the answer.

On Thursday, the International Olympic Committee declared the “magnificent” Olympic venues in Sochi ready for the 2014 Winter Games. 

IOC Co-ordination Committee Chairman Jean-Claude Killy dismissed concerns over Russian anti-gay legislation. “As long as the Olympic Charter is respected, we are satisfied,” he said.

President Vladimir Putin signed legislation in June banning the promotion of “non-traditional relationships” toward minors.