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Buzzfeed: Russian LGBT Activists Say New IOC Chief Ignoring Request to Meet During Russia Visit

The newly elected president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Thomas Bach has not responded to a request sent from a coalition of Russian LGBT organizations asking for a meeting during his first visit to Sochi, the Russian coalition said on Monday, as Bach arrived in the southern city to meet Vladimir Putin.

“Russia’s new so-called anti-propaganda law expressly announces inequality based on sexual orientation and is in direct violation of the Olympic Charter’s requirement that ‘any form of discrimination…is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement,’ the coalition wrote in the letter. “The purpose of our meeting would be to discuss ways the IOC can ensure the respect of the non-discrimination clause of the Olympic Charter and in particular defend the rights of LGBT athletes and visitors, for example by establishing a ‘Pride House’ as for the last two Olympics.”

The letter — sent by email on Oct. 13 and followed by a formal request sent by post Oct. 22. — was signed by Anastasia Smirnova on behalf of the Russian LGBT Network, Side by Side LGBT Film Festival, St. Petersburg’s Coming Out, the Russian LGBT Sport Federation, Arkhangelsk’s Rakurs, and the OutLoud Project.

When asked whether Bach would follow President Barack Obama’s example and meet with LGBT organizations while in Russia, IOC spokesman Mark Adams told BuzzFeed, “We have offered to meet Russian LGBT groups this week should they wish. We are always open for dialogue.”

The ambiguity in that answer troubled Human Rights Watch’s Director of Global Initiatives Minky Worden, who has been working with Russian activists and argued that it was not enough for a junior official from the IOC to meet with LGBT activists. If Bach, who was appointed in September, wanted to send the message that Russia’s crackdown on LGBT rights was counter to the Olympic Charter, he would have to commit to meeting with them personally, she said.

“A meeting at any level other than Thomas Bach doesn’t communicate the appropriate concern about the [anti-LGBT] law,” Worden said.

Bach’s visit to Sochi was initially planned for later this week, but he arrived early on Monday to hold a meeting with Putin, who used the occasion to assure him, “We are doing everything, both the organizers and our athletes and fans, so that participants and guests feel comfortable in Sochi, regardless of nationality, race or sexual orientation.”

All protest has been banned during the Olympics in Sochi as has the creation of a Pride House. In March, a judge upheld the Russian interior ministry’s decision to ban a Pride House at Sochi, arguing that the house would “undermine public morals and are at odds with national policy on the family, motherhood and children.”


Original material at BUZZFEED:


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