The 22nd Winter Olympic Games will be held in the Russian city of Sochi from 7-23 February 2014. As the Deputy will be aware, and as was the case with previous Olympics, the awarding of these Games was a decision of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), rather than of national governments. Respect for diversity and inclusiveness are, of course, an integral part of the Olympic ideal and I would very much like to see this reflected at the Games in Sochi. The IOC is in ongoing contact with the Russian government regarding recent legislation relating to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex persons (LGBTI) and any possible implications for athletes or spectators at the Sochi Games.
My own views on the legislation referred to are very well-known in this House and elsewhere. I have made LGBTI rights a Human Rights priority and am firmly committed to combating discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity. As I made clear earlier today, I strongly disagree with the legislation which, while purporting to protect young people, is more likely to result in the further stigmatisation and, indeed, criminalisation of LGBTI young people. This position has been conveyed by my Department to the Russian Chargé d’affaires and I have undertaken to raise the matter at my next meeting with a Russian Minister.
I understand that the IOC has received written assurances from Russian officials there will be no discrimination at the Sochi Games. I would strongly encourage the Russian authorities to continue to provide robust assurances to the IOC and to the wider international community that the human rights and dignity of all participants and spectators, regardless of their sexual orientation, will be scrupulously respected including freedom of expression and freedom of association and assembly.