BERLIN — Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee has insisted the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi must remain open to all despite the Russian government's controversial anti-gay laws.
"The International Olympic Committee is aware that sport is a human right and must be accessible to all, regardless of ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation," the 71-year-old told Sunday's edition of German newspaper Tagesspiegel.
"The Games themselves must be open to all, this applies to spectators, officials, journalists and, of course, the athletes."
In June, Russian president Vladimir Putin signed a law against "gay propaganda" which punishes the dissemination of information about homosexuality to minors.
Activists say the law can be used for a broad crackdown against gays and there are fears it could be used against participants at the Sochi Olympics. The new law has sparked calls for a boycott in some quarters and Russian officials have said all athletes will have to obey the law at the Games.
On Sunday, Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko spoke out on the brewing international controversy, calling it an "invented problem" focused on by Western media.
Mutko told reporters before the start of the world track and field championships in Moscow that critics should "calm down", saying the rights of all athletes competing in Sochi will be respected.
"We don't have a law to ban non-traditional sexual relations," he said. "The mass media in the West have focused much more on this law more than they do in Russia."
Mutko said the law was intended to protect Russian children.
"We want to protect our younger generation whose physicality has not been formulated. It is a law striving to protect rights of children — and not intended to deprive anybody of their private life," he added.
But Olympics chief Rogge said there can be no place for discrimination at any Olympic Games.
"The IOC will continue to work to ensure that the Games take place without discrimination," Rogge added.
"We would oppose, with all our might, any movement that threatens this principle."
Rogge has said he has reassurances from "the highest level" that the Sochi games, which run from February 7-23, will take place without discrimination against homosexuals.
"The IOC has commitments from the highest authorities in Russia that this legislation will not affect anyone who attends the Games or takes part in them," added Rogge.
© AFP 2014