ANCIENT OLYMPIA, Greece, September 29 (R-Sport, David Nowak) – Newly elected International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach warned on Sunday that the Olympics “aren’t a marketplace for demonstrations,” suggesting that athlete protests over Russia’s new legislation against promoting homosexuality would not be tolerated during the Sochi 2014 Winter Games.
Speaking to R-Sport in his first exclusive interview since his election in Buenos Aires earlier this month, the 59-year-old German made it clear that the IOC would stick to its mandate of delivering a smooth Games come February 7 without interfering in Russian politics.
“There it is our task to protect the Olympic village. It cannot be a marketplace for demonstrations for all potential issues in the world, even if they are the best ones, maybe,” he said.
“Our world is diverse and the Games should be giving an example that in spite of all differences, of all controversies, people can live together and respect each other, and they are not there to create confrontation.”
The Kremlin maintains that the new legislation, signed into law by President Vladimir Putin in June, is aimed at protecting children and does not prevent adults from making their own choices, but critics claim the legislation is part of a much wider crackdown on homosexuality in Russia.
Many have expressed concern about what impact the law might have on LGBT athletes and spectators at the February 7-23 Games.
Bach, who was elected to succeed Jacques Rogge at an IOC congress on September 10, had his first official engagement after speaking to R-Sport, making a speech at the lighting ceremony for the Olympic flame that will be used for the Sochi 2014 torch relay.
R-Sport is the sports arm of RIA Novosti, the host news agency for the Sochi Winter Games.