IOC President tells UN: ‘I oppose any type of boycott of the Winter Olympics’

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

The President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has once again dismissed calls for a boycott of the Sochi Winter Olympics because of Russia’s anti-gay laws during a United Nations debate.

Thomas Bach replaced Jacques Rogge as IOC president in September.

Last week, President Vladimir Putin told Mr Bach that LGBT athletes and fans attending the Winter Olympics would “feel comfortable in Sochi, regardless of nationality, race or sexual orientation”.

A federal bill banning gay “propaganda” was signed into law by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in June.

It prescribes fines for providing information about homosexuality to people under the age of 18 – ranging from 4,000 roubles (£78) for an individual to 1m roubles (£19,620) for organisations.

Mr Bach, a German former fencer, told the UN on Wednesday: “We oppose boycotts of any kind.”

He continued: “Boycotts are a fundamental contradiction to the spirit of sport, depriving it of the means to continue working for peace, mutual understanding and solidarity.”

Mr Bach said: “Sport, and the Olympic Movement especially, understands the global diversity of cultures, societies and life designs as a source of richness. We never accuse or exclude anyone.”

He added that “sport has to enjoy responsible autonomy. And politics must respect this sporting autonomy.”

With the Olympics and other major events facing growing numbers of political controversies, Mr Bach said that “sport must remain politically neutral.”

“This does not mean that it is apolitical. Sport must include political considerations in its decisions. It must also consider the political, economic and social implications of its decisions.

“This is particularly true when choosing the venues for major sports events, above all the biggest and most important of these, the Olympic Games.”

“It must always be clear in the relationship between sport and politics that the role of sport is always to build bridges, it must never build walls,”

The UN General Assembly has tabled a resolution calling for an Olympic truce during the Sochi Games including a landmark call for host countries like Russia “to promote social inclusion without discrimination of any kind.”

In response, Sochi Olympic Organising Committee President Dmitry Chernyshenko, said: “It is not just nice words. It is real action. During the Games, we guarantee that there will be no discrimination whether by religious or sexual or gender distinction.”

“This is the first time that language of this kind appears in a resolution on the Olympic truce and it sends a powerful message highlighting the role that sport plays for all people,” Elizabeth Cousens, a deputy US ambassador, told the UN debate.

“This phrase emphasises the importance of inclusion and participation of all people in sporting activity regardless of identity, including persons of different sexual orientation and gender identities.”