Putin: No discrimination at Winter Olympics

BY newsdesk  January 16, 2014 at 5:50 PM EDT
Photo by Flickr user Neal Jennings

Photo by Flickr user Neal Jennings

Russian President Vladimir Putin pledged Thursday that no athlete would face discrimination at February’s Winter Olympics, hoping to address mounting criticism against Russia’s laws targeting gays and lesbians.

“The Olympic Games will be held in full compliance with the Olympic charter, without any discrimination on any basis,” Putin said during a speech to new foreign ambassadors at the Kremlin. “Russia will be rooting for its own athletes of course, but we wish success to all the athletes.”

Putin has drawn considerable ire from the international community over laws restricting the rights of gays and lesbians . Critics of the measures say they’ve been used to ban public expressions, such as gay pride parades, and to violently clamp down on members of Russia’s LGBT community.

In response, human rights activists have put much of their focus on to the high-profile games, calling for demonstrations and boycotts. In a move showing their position on the issue, the United States named two openly gay athletes to their delegation at the Olympics.

Understanding the importance the games and its $50 billion price tag has on his legacy, Putin has worked to soften his image. In addition to today’s announcement, he recently pardoned several well-known activists, including oil tycoon and former opposition leader Mikhail Khodorkovsky and members of the band Pussy Riot.

The opening ceremony for the games will be held on Friday, February 7.