January 29 - A potential area of conflict over Russia's controversial anti-gay propaganda law has arisen between the head of Sochi 2014 and Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee, after athletes were warned political protests would not be acceptable during news conferences.
That appeared to contradict what Bach had said during a teleconference on Monday (January 27).
He had warned that any athletes who protested on the medal podium would be in conflict with the Olympic Charter but if they chose to make their points in pre-event press conferences then that would be acceptable.
Dmitry Chernyshenko, President and chief executive of Sochi 2014, claimed Bach was wrong, however.
"He might have mentioned that there is a Rule 50 in the Olympic Charter which limits the expression of any propaganda during the Games," Chernyshenko told a a conference call today when asked how Russian officials would deal with possible protests.
"I don't think they [athletes] are allowed by the Charter to express those views that are not related to the sport at the press conference room."
He advised athletes that if they wanted to protest then they should do it at the special area set-up in Khosta, situated about 18 kilometres from the Sochi 2014 Coastal Cluster containing the Olympic Stadium.
"What I would call the Sochi 'speakers' corner' has been organised in Sochi city so that everybody can express themselves," said Chernyshenko.
Russia's controversial anti-gay legislation, along with other concerns over its human rights record, has led to several high-profile world leaders deciding not to attend the Opening Ceremony on February 7.
But Chernyshenko revealed that 52 heads of state would attend the Games, a record for the Winter Olympics, he claimed.
"Frankly we are talking about world leaders here, some of the busiest people on the planet," he said.
"To suggest it is something personal is not accurate and acceptable.
"The number of state leaders...to come is the highest ever in the history of the Olympic Winter Games."
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