Sochi Olympics: Rogge asks Russia to clarify gay law

International Olympic Committee chief Jacques Rogge at a news conference in Moscow, 9 August Jacques Rogge was in Moscow ahead of the world athletics championships there

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The head of the International Olympic Committee has asked Russia to explain how its new law on gay "propaganda" might affect next year's winter games.

Jacques Rogge said in Moscow that Russian written reassurances over the Winter Olympics needed clarification.

"We don't think it is a fundamental issue, more a translation issue," Mr Rogge added.

Gay rights campaigners have called for the games to be moved to another country in protest at the law.

The law, passed in June, prescribes heavy fines for anyone providing information about homosexuality to people under 18.

Critics say its loose interpretation effectively hinders any kind of public gay rights event in Russia.

The Sochi games will be the biggest international sporting event in Russia since the Moscow Summer Olympics of 1980.

'Couple of paragraphs'

After British broadcaster Stephen Fry made the call in an open letter to Mr Rogge and others on Wednesday, the IOC told the BBC it had received "assurances from the highest level of government in Russia that the legislation" would "not affect those attending or taking part in the Games".

However, Mr Rogge said on Friday that there were still "uncertainties" despite written assurances received from Sochi organiser Dmitry Kozak.

President Barack Obama: "If Russia doesn't have gay or lesbian athletes then it would probably make their team weaker"

"We are not clear about the English translation of the Russian law and we want clarification of this translation to be able to understand what has been communicated to us," he said.

"This is about a couple of paragraphs - we don't understand all the details because of probably a difficulty in translation."

He added: "We are waiting for this clarification before having final judgement on these reassurances."

Mr Rogge was visiting Moscow ahead of the the world athletics championships due to start there on Saturday.

He stressed that, under the Olympic charter, sport was a "human right and should be available to all regardless of race, sex, sexual orientation".

US President Barack Obama said on Friday he did not consider it "appropriate" to boycott the Winter Olympics over the gay rights issue.

Gay rights in Russia

  • Male homosexual acts decriminalised by Russia in 1993
  • Rated most difficult country in Europe which to be gay by watchdog Ilga-Europe
  • Legislation passed in June imposes fines for "propagandising of non-traditional sexual relations among minors"
  • Gay Pride events effectively banned for 100 years by a court order

Instead he hoped gay and lesbian athletes would do well at the games.

"One of the things I'm really looking forward to is maybe some gay and lesbian athletes bringing home the gold or silver or bronze, which would, I think, go a long way in rejecting the kind of attitudes that we're seeing there," he said.

Homosexuality was decriminalised in Russia in 1993 and government officials have sought to play down the possible impact of the bill on the Sochi games.

Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said on Thursday that Olympic athletes would "have to respect the laws of the country" during the games.

But, appealing for calm, he added that Russia had a "constitution that guarantees to all citizens rights for the private life and privacy".

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