Putin Says Gay Athletes and Fans Welcome at Sochi Olympics

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Oct. 28 2013 8:25 PM

Putin Says Gay Athletes and Fans Welcome at Sochi Olympics

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A crowd of people sing the Russian National Anthem at the Stockholm Olympic Stadium in solidarity with the Russian LGBT community.

Photo by ERIK MARTENSSON/AFP/Getty Images

No news is good news could have been the mantra of late for the Sochi Olympic Games set to be held in Russia in February. When there has been news, recently its been pretty iffy for the host country. There is, of course, the wee issue that the Olympic torch wouldn’t stay lit when it set off from Moscow for its traditional circuit leading up to the Games. But, all such torch-related issues paled in comparison to the country’s Olympic spirit crushing stance on homosexuality preceding the Games.

But, on Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin took a more accepting stance regarding the country’s position on homosexual athletes and visitors with the head of the International Olympic Committee in town. "We will do everything to make sure that athletes, fans and guests feel comfortable at the Olympic Games regardless of their ethnicity, race or sexual orientation. I would like to underline that," Putin told the I.O.C chief.

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The remark, Reuters points out, comes as a bit of a surprise from Putin, who maintains that in Russia, which decriminalized homosexuality in 1993, there is no discrimination against gays. Also making Putin’s remarks that much more surprising is that, as CNN reports, Putin, in June, signed the law that bars “the distribution of information to minors that promotes same-sex relationships” and “gives authorities the power to impose fines as well as detain and deport foreigners who are deemed to have breached the law.”

Elliot Hannon is a writer in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter.