By Duncan Mackay

Canadians march in protest at anti-gay lawAugust 4 - Marcel Aubut, President of the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC), has backed the decision by two of the country's leading athletes to take part in the Vancouver Pride Parade today as a protest against Russia's new anti-gay laws which are overshadowing the build-up to Sochi 2014. 

Alpine skier Mike Janyk and snowboarder Mercedes Nicoll (pictured top), both members of Canada's 2006 and 2010 Olympic teams, joined more than 100 floats that wound their way through Vancouver, host city of the last Winter Games.

"Today, as our Canadian Olympic athletes march in Vancouver Pride 2013, we are reminded that sport is a human right and that everyone - regardless of race, religion, creed or sexual orientation - has the right to participate free of discrimination, said Aubut.

"Since London 2012, the COC has been involved in more than 100 events, with approximately 800 Olympians.

"This year, for the first time ever, we are proud to add Pride festivals to our long list of community involvement.

"While today's march will conclude on the shores of Sunset Beach, the message of tolerance, acceptance and diversity will and must continue to be heard throughout Canada and around the world."

Vladimir Putin anti-gay poster Vancouver Pride August 4 2013Vladimir Putin was the subject of protest during at the Vancouver Pride Parade because of the anti-gay laws introduced in Russia which are overshadowing preparations for Sochi 2014

Opposition to the controversial new laws, introduced by Russian President Vladimir Putin in June, that makes it illegal to spread "propaganda for non-traditional sexual relations" to minors, under threat of steep fines and even prison sentences, has been growing.

On Friday (August 2) Richard Carrión, one of the leading candidates to replace Jacques Rogge as President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), had claimed that "a condition to getting the Olympic Games in the future should be to make sure the city does not have laws that discriminate against people in any way, consistent with the Olympic Charter".

Janyk, who won a bronze medal in the slalom at the 2009 World Championships in Val d'Isère, ruled out a boycott of Sochi 2014 in protest at the laws.

"A boycott never solves anything," he said.

"That's running away.

"Boycott just hurts the people that don't go.

"The great thing about the Olympics is that it goes into these countries that may not have the same rights that we enjoy here in Canada.

"If we get to go there and show our love and support for all that, then that's just a great aspect."

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

Related stories
August 2013: Carrión enters row over new Russian anti-gay law
August 2013: Gay groups call on Rogge to set up IOC Pride House as protest against new Russian laws
July 2013: New pro gay-rights Sochi 2014 protest launched - but boycott call rejected
July 2013: US Olympic Committee dismisses Senator's call for Sochi 2014 boycott
March 2012: Judge bans Sochi 2014 gay Pride House claiming it would offend "public morality"