(WFI) Russia World Cup chief Alexey Sorokin defends his country’s anti-gay law in an exclusive interview with World Football INSIDER.
Introduced by President Vladimir Putin in June, the law which bans “pro gay” propaganda, has sparked global outrage among human rights activists and cast a shadow over preparations for the 2014 Sochi Olympics and 2018 World Cup. Some groups have called for a boycott of the Games.
The law bans discussion and displays of so-called “non-traditional” relationships around minors. Symbols like rainbow flags and pins are also illegal. Under the law, athletes and spectators who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender could be jailed for 15 days and even deported during the Olympics or World Cup for being “pro-gay”.
Sorokin, who is CEO of the Russia 2018 organising committee, told INSIDER the law “has been largely misinterpreted… it is designed against active propaganda of homosexuality, not against homosexuality itself. That is a big difference”.
“Would you like a World Cup where naked people are running around displaying their homosexuality? The answer to that is quite obvious,” he said.
“The Olympics and World Cup are not a stage for various views… not for Nazis, not for any other ways of life. It should be about football and nothing else.”
Sorokin said Russia had given assurances from high-level government officials that the law would not affect athletes or fans “unless someone intends to be actively involved in the propaganda of this”.
“They have nothing more to fear. They have guarantees and assurances that they will not be affected. The minister of sport [Vitaly Mutko] has given a full and detailed explanation.
He added: “It would be strange to see someone choose such an event as the Olympic Games as a stage to propogate these ideas.
“We suppose people come to participate or to watch and be part of it not to display their views. Private life should remain private.”
The Russia 2018 leader said there had been no pressure from FIFA to clarify how the anti-gay law would be implemented for the World Cup.
In recent days, US president Barack Obama and government leaders from Germany and the UK have spoken out against a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics.
IOC president Jacques Rogge said last week that the IOC was waiting for clarifications before taking a stand, claiming he had received written reassurances from Dmitry Kozak, the deputy prime minister and Olympic supervisor, on Thursday.
Rogge said Russia should abide by the Olympic Charter, which prohibits political gestures by athletes and makes clear “that sport is a human right and should be available to all regardless of race, sex or sexual orientation”.
By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson
Your best source of news about the global football business is World Football INSIDER