Russian authorities have given “strong” assurances that gay and lesbian competitors at next year’s Winter Olympics will not face discrimination, International Olympic Committee (IOC) chief Jacques Rogge said Friday during a visit to the United Nations.
Gay rights activists have led calls for a boycott of the 2014 Sochi Games in protest at Russia’s notorious “gay propaganda” law.
The law, signed by President Vladimir Putin in June, punishes the dissemination of information about homosexuality to minors.
Activists say it can be used for a broad crackdown against gays — fuelling fears participants at the Winter Olympics could be targeted.
However, Rogge said Friday that Russian officials had assured Olympics organisers athletes would not be affected.
“We have received new and strong assurances, both verbally and in writing, that there will not be any discrimination against participants at the Sochi Games,” Rogge told reporters.
“We are reassured by the fact that the Russian Federation accepts and respects the Olympic Charter,” he added.
Under the legislation signed by Putin, foreigners can be fined up to 100,000 rubles (about $A3,346.91), detained for up to 15 days or expelled from the country.
Rogge meanwhile said he expects the climax of the race to host the 2020 Olympics next month to come down to just a handful of votes.
The IOC membership will gather in Buenos Aires for a September 7 meeting to choose the 2020 hosts from a shortlist of Tokyo, Madrid and Istanbul.
“The three cities are very close to each other,” Rogge said. “(It) will not be not easy to determine the winner.
“The ultimate choice will be a matter of a difference of two or three votes, no more than that.”
Rogge was joined by tennis’s world number one Novak Djokovic at the UN on Friday as the general assembly agreed to launch the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace on April 6 next year.