News Column

Russia Says Olympic Boycott Would Only Harm Athletes

Aug. 13, 2013

Calls for a boycott of the Winter Olympics in the Black Sea resort of Sochi could destroy the atmosphere and will only harm athletes, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.

"Attempts by certain forces to poison the atmosphere in the run-up to the games and to politicise the Olympics run counter to the Olympic movement's principles," an unnamed ministry source told the Interfax news agency.

The source added that the boycotts of the 1980 Olympics in Moscow and the 1984 Games in Los Angeles had achieved nothing.

Some rights activists and politicians have suggested a boycott after Russian government officials confirmed that a controversial law banning "gay propaganda" to minors would be enforced at the games, scheduled for February 7-23, 2014.

On Tuesday, German lawmaker Johannes Kahrs said that the games should be moved to Vancouver, Canada.

"In Canada, no homosexual athlete would have to be afraid," Kahrs, a Social Democrat member of the Bundestag, said in an email. He added that it would be easy to change the venue because Vancouver, which hosted the last Winter Olympics in 2010, already has the necessary infrastructure.

Earlier, two German cabinet ministers said that the Russian law smacked of dictatorship.

Speaking on the N24 news channel Tuesday, development minister Dirk Niebel said that Russia was moving towards "flawless dictatorship". Niebel was echoing a similar comment by Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger.

The statements are a play on a famous quote from former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder who once described Russian President Vladimir Putin as a "flawless democrat".

However, Niebel and Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, both members of the liberal Free Democrat Party which forms a coalition with Chancellor Merkel's Christian Democrats, said that a boycott would only hurt those affected by the law.

The German Interior Ministry has argued against a boycott, saying that it would politicise the games.

Source: Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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