During an inspection visit on Monday, Russian president Vladimir Putin said steps were being taken to ensure that athletes and fans at the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi are comfortable "regardless of nationality, race or sexual orientation."
“I would like to underline that,” he added.
The comment comes almost four months after Putin signed a bill into law that bars "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors." The law has sparked controversy around the world and raised concerns from gay athletes and fans planning to participate or attend the events. Calls to boycott the Games also arose in response to the law blasted by many as draconian.
Although groups such as Human Rights Watch have called on the International Olympic Committee to urge the Russian government to repeal the law, the IOC has reportedly been assured by planners that Sochi will adhere to the Olympic Charter. According to the Charter, the fourth of the Fundamental Principles of Olympism states:
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."
The sixth principle goes on to state that discrimination of any kind on the basis "of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise" is incompatible with the Olympic Movement.
The Sochi Winter Olympics run from Feb. 7-23, 2014 in the resort town situated next to the Black Sea. IOC president Thomas Bach praised the progress being made in preparing for the Games and expects the Olympiad will reach a “magnificent level.”