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Obama expects Sochi Games to welcome gays and lesbians

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TSN.ca Staff
8/7/2013 10:06:49 AM
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U.S. President Barack Obama says that he expects Russia to welcome gay and lesbian athletes to the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Obama cancelled a planned September meeting in Moscow on Wednesday in a diplomatic rebuke over Russia's harbouring of NSA leaker Edward Snowden, having also said in a television interview hours earlier that he had "no patience" with countries who discriminate against gay people.

"I think (President Vladimir) Putin and Russia have a big stake in making sure the Olympics work," Obama said Tuesday night on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. "And I think they understand that for most of the countries that participate in the Olympics, we wouldn't tolerate gays and lesbians being treated differently.

"And if Russia wants to uphold the Olympic spirit, then every judgment should be made on the track, or in the swimming pool, or on the balance beam, and people's sexual orientation shouldn't have anything to do with it."

There have been a few calls for a boycott of the Sochi Games, after a law signed by Putin last month banned the "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" and imposed fines for providing information about the gay community to minors or holding gay pride rallies. Foreign citizens arrested under the law can be jailed for 15 days and then deported.

Going into next year's games in Russia, there's also concern about a long-running problem of violence against gays, as well as a new law restricting adoptions of Russian children by people in countries allowing same-sex marriage.

The IOC said it has received assurances "from the highest level of government in Russia that the legislation will not affect those attending or taking part in the Games." The sporting body also pledged to ensure there would be no discrimination against athletes, officials, spectators and the media in Sochi.

However, the Human Rights Campaign, a leading U.S. gay-rights group, said the IOC should take a stronger stand.

"They should be advocating for the safety of all LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people in Russia, not simply those visiting for the Olympics," said HRC President Chad Griffin earlier this month. "Rescinding this heinous law must be our collective goal."

Files from The Associated Press were used for this report.

Barack Obama (Photo: MICHAEL KAPPELER/AFP/Getty Images)

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(Photo: MICHAEL KAPPELER/AFP/Getty Images)
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