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Sochi 2014

Human rights pledge urged for future Olympic host countries

Saturday, February 22, 2014
Darron Cummings, APA fan carries a Russian flag while walking in the Olympic Plaza during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Sochi, Russia.

Darron Cummings, AP
A fan carries a Russian flag while walking in the Olympic Plaza during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Sochi, Russia.

Citing widespread dismay with Russia’s anti-gay laws, a coalition of more than 30 human rights and gay rights groups is calling on the International Olympic Committee to ensure that future Olympic host countries do not have discriminatory laws on their books.

The coalition — including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the Human Rights Campaign — made the demands in a joint letter to IOC President Thomas Bach as the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, neared their close.

Activists in Russia and abroad have tried to use the games to draw attention to the Russian law banning so-called gay “propaganda,” which they say deters a wide range of gay-rights activities.

In their letter to Bach, released on Friday, the groups said that future contracts between the IOC and host cities should include specific human rights pledges and a commitment not to introduce laws or policies before the Olympics that would violate human rights.

“The contracts should include clear sanctions for failing to respect these commitments, up to and including a relocation of the games,” the letter said.

The letter also urged the IOC to amend Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter to specify that the Olympic movement’s condemnation of discrimination extends to discrimination based on sexual orientation and sexual identity.

IOC spokesman Mark Adams, addressing this matter while in Sochi, has said that the IOC charter covers all discrimination, including sexual orientation. But he said the proposed wording could be considered during upcoming IOC deliberations.

“We have a good constructive dialogue with Human Right Watch,” Adams said Saturday. “We will read, digest and reflect on their suggestions before giving a considered response.”

As to broader human rights questions, Adams has said these could be addressed as part of a review of the Olympic Charter and other regulations. The IOC will meet in a special session in December in Monaco to vote on proposed changes and recommendations as part of Bach’s proposed blueprint for the future, called “Olympic Agenda 2020.”

The letter from the rights groups said the IOC “could indeed be a force for good” if it bolstered its criteria in regard to human rights.

“The worldwide wave of outrage spurred by Russia’s discriminatory anti-LGBT laws should be a warning — one that should not be repeated,” the letter said. “Countries with laws designed to discriminate against or attack the dignity or human rights of any individual or group … should not be given the honor and privilege of hosting the Olympic Games.”

According to Human Rights Watch, other abuses resulting from Russia’s preparations for the Sochi Games included the exploitation of workers on Olympic venues, forced evictions of families to make way for construction, environmental and health hazards, and the stifling of journalists’ efforts to document these abuses.

Minky Worden, director of global initiatives for Human Rights Watch, noted that some past reforms by the IOC — including a crackdown on doping and changes in its own governance — came about at least in part because of outside pressure.

“It has taken major global outrage, of the kind we’ve seen with Sochi, to spur changes in the Olympic movement,” she said. “It’s never fast, it’s never easy.

“The IOC had plenty of warning to cope with these abuses in Russia,” she added. “They failed to do that. The moment has arrived when there needs to be institutional reform.”

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40 more reader comments:

  1. IOC only cares about money :(

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 5:06pm
  2. I’m not holding my breath on this happening, not with the IOC head blatantly ignoring the issue.

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 5:06pm
  3. I’m surprised it still needs a debate!!!!

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 5:09pm
  4. The IOC is probably the most craven organization in the history of humankind!

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 5:09pm
  5. i think they are all from Kansas...

    Replied on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 5:41pm
  6. Maybe some of them from Arizona. :)

    Replied on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 5:41pm
  7. hola

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 5:10pm
  8. well, the bidders for 2022 are Oslo, Norway; Beijing, China; Krakow, Poland; Lviv, Ukraine (which is dead right now I assume because of the protest); and Almaty, Kazakhstan… so I think we will be backing Norway then…

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 5:10pm
  9. But we just had an Olympics in Beijing!

    Replied on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 11:47pm
  10. The Beijing bid is considered as long shot.... with all the pollution there...

    Replied on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 3:14am
  11. How would it really change anything? Remember, a host city is selected 7 years before the event. Russia’s law was just passed less than a year ago. Do the math folks.

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 5:13pm
  12. This isnt gonna happen. That would rule out a majority of countries in the world, including the USA.
    Either way I see where the IOC is coming from. Whether or not they approve of the laws that their host countries implement, they have to understand that the it’s the country’s rules and how they run. Its basically a term we like to call ‘cultural relativism’. Shaming them for holding the olympics in any country for reasons like the issue with russia is very ethnocentric to say the least. I dont like Russia’s laws but I will side with the IOC on being able to have the olympics in any country they agree on.

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 5:14pm
  13. So you assert that human rights violations are a cultural prerogative? Okay, assuming you're correct, that means all the countries that do not allow human rights violations, or condone them, should not be forced to put up with them in order to compete in the Olympic Games. That pretty much leaves those violating countries out of the running as hosts for the games, and here's why: Holding the games in a country with a notable lack of such discrimination is not, in and of itself, harmful to a culture that promotes such things. However, holding games in a country that does allow or promote such discrimination is a threat to the athletes, coaches, attendees, and other assorted people affiliated with the games who fall under the cloud of that culture's bigotry.

    Replied on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 5:35pm
  14. Okay, I can agree with what you're saying. However, in the situation of the Sochi Olympics, there was a middle-ground met where LGBT athletes, coaches, and attendees can be involved in such that they did not violate Russia's laws and were not sent to prison, so long as they didn't show it. Although I do not necessarily approve of those means, I don't see any reason why the IOC should have moved the olympics. Just because we don't agree with Russia's laws doesn't mean we should impose our cultural values on Russia or the IOC. If there was no middle ground met and it did threaten people involved in the olympics, what do you think would have happened? I honestly think that the olympics would simply have been canceled if that were the case (though it's hard to say for sure). However, as contradictory to my argument as it may sound, when it comes to countries with laws that threaten the lives of a group of people (such as Uganda) is where the line get drawn and the IOC should avoid having the olympics in such countries. If it involves live or death, then it's very unlikely that any middle ground will be met. In this sense, I guess you can say it really depends the law the country has and if they're willing to collaborate to ensure the safety of those involved. In the end my main argument is that we are handling these situations in completely the wrong way. If we want Russia to do something about their laws, we do it on their terms, not our own. The IOC doesn't have to ban or shame a country based on their discriminatory laws, that is their right. Us shaming the IOC for exercising that right is no better than those who shame LGBT people for their identity. Excuse my lack of ability to articulate my argument. I'm getting over a hangover and can't think clearly.

    Replied on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 10:08pm
  15. I’d like more than a pledge. I’m certain Russia would have signed such a pledge (the government really doesn’t seem to think there’s anything discriminatory about what they’re doing). An independent human rights organization (or group of organizations) should be consulted before awarding the games in the future and I think the IOC needs to signal a willingness to move the games on short notice if necessary. If the event is really about the athletes (as they claim it is) then all the pomp and ceremony (and expense) isn’t essential. A previous host city could (in a pinch) stand in on fairly short notice.

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 5:16pm
  16. It’s shameful that this isn’t already a requirement.

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 5:17pm
  17. Stockholm, Sweden submitted a bid for 2022 but withdrew it because the government doesn’t want to fund it…

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 5:18pm
  18. This should not just be a wish, but a promise, a fact that no other host country can be as blatantly homophobic, and as openly brazen about there disregard for human rights!

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 5:19pm
  19. Debaters wanted ❤️
    Friend request me to join my debate group. Debate all issues with over 1.3k ppl from all over the world

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 5:27pm
  20. Good luck with that. It’s not like the freakin IOC is any better than Putin!

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 5:31pm
  21. they pissed cause the gay lesbian transgender by are great athaletes to

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 5:32pm
  22. We mean little in their eyes…. and worse, we are willing to accept such a lot, as the other option of immediacy…saying “Enough IS enough!” ruffles too many feathers. “b̶y̶ ̶a̶n̶y̶ ̶m̶e̶a̶n̶s̶ ̶n̶e̶c̶e̶s̶s̶a̶r̶y̶”. More like “Pretty please?” and “Thank you sir, may I have another?”

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 5:49pm
  23. If the Olympics were about ethics, the Russians would be excluded.

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 6:09pm
  24. Haven’t watched a single event and managed to avoid most of the coverage. Blocking the Olympics has become a new Winter Olympics event. Trust me Comcast Xfinity makes it tough.

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 6:44pm
  25. Absolutely

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 7:12pm
  26. I’m all for this however this means the US cannot hold games anytime soon

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 7:32pm
  27. China, then Russia…who will the IOC give the Games to, next; North Korea?

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 7:36pm
  28. IOC is all about cash..Look at the number of briberies over the years..Like Salt Lake City…

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 7:53pm
  29. well that narrows it down to zero

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 8:11pm
  30. besides a complete waste of money and resources when these venues end up dilapidated relics. one city to host both each time, obviously in Greece…

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 8:22pm
  31. Good for them. we need someone there eyes open

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 9:53pm
  32. Yeah, cause that’s what the Olympics are for. Politics. Cause, you know, fuck keeping an athletic competition about athletic competition. We gotta be all ethnocentric and force Russia to do what we want.

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 10:26pm
  33. That word...ethnocentric.. I don't think it means what you think it means... how the fuck is human rights for everyone regardless of sexual orientation... "ethnocentric"?

    Replied on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 3:10am
  34. Right NOW you talk about human rights, when we have been screaming about it for a year. Fuck off, IOC.

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 10:43pm
  35. Bombed laos,korea,vietnam,thailand,dropped nukes on japan.funded both sides with iran iraq contra .went to war in Afghanistan.went to war with iraq ovr million have died there.funded foreign fighters in lybia and syria .drone attacks in Yemen n pakistan .guess what.none of these countries attack us .except japan.but Australia gave us a month notice .but I guess war is money.only reason they did attack us was because we sanctions them.and they heavly relied on oil.o yeah I forgot about when we sanctioned iraq n north korea millions died there too .so dont say the united corporations of america about human rights.

    Posted on Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 11:39pm
  36. that will never happen, the IOC is bought and paid for by the winning team.. check their international bank accounts, funny how there were millions of dollars in “donations” made by russia

    Posted on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 4:03am
  37. it’s all about one thing in the end folks, money. Who will pay them the most gets it and they don’t care where it will be in the end

    Posted on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 10:39am
  38. Don’t host them in hate countries tired of hearing about bigotry that won’t change and so is everyone else

    Posted on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 12:37pm
  39. Oh Veeeeeery Gooooooood News! ♥ Cooooool! ♥ I Like It Sooooo Much! ♥ ♥ ♥

    Posted on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 3:43pm
  40. I have refused to watch the Olympics this year and will never watch them if they are in a country that doesn’t observe equal rights for all.

    Posted on Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 3:50pm