MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law is attracting widespread condemnation but the country’s sports minister and the head of world athletics were unconcerned on Thursday about its potential impact on the world championships.
U.S. President Barack Obama has voiced his concern while openly gay British writer Stephen Fry compared the restrictions surrounding next year’s Sochi Winter Olympics to the anti-Semitic backdrop of the Nazi-controlled summer Games of 1936.
“I want to ask you to calm down as in addition to this law we have a constitution that guarantees all citizens a private life,” sports minister Vitali Mutko told a news conference.
”It is not intended to deprive people of any religion, race or sexual orientation but to ban the promotion of non-traditional relations among the young generation.
“I was in Sochi yesterday and all the athletes and organisations should be relaxed, their rights will be protected...but of course you have to respect the laws of the country you are in.”
IAAF president Lamine Diack was similarly unperturbed.
“I don’t feel there is a problem whatsoever,” said the 80-year-old Senegalese.
“There is a law that exists, it has to be respected, we are here for the world championships and have no problem whatsoever and I‘m not worried at all.”
The Russian ban has led some to call for a boycott of the Sochi Games but Diack, who says he helped prevent Senegal from boycotting the 1976 and 1980 Olympics, said any political concerns should be kept separate.
“I remember 33 years ago I was vice president of the African Olympic Committee and they said we couldn’t go to Russia because they were in Afghanistan,” he said.
”Muhammad Ali said we shouldn’t go to Moscow and they wanted us to boycott Montreal in 1976 but we (Senegal) didn‘t. I said the Olympics should be a time for a truce.
“Russia has its laws and we come here for athletics and each can do what he wants in his private life.”
Editing by Robert Woodward