Russia bows to pressure on wording of Olympic truce and embraces gays

After pressure from some UN nations, Olympic statement is amended and calls for inclusion

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 September, 2013, 4:47am


Every two years, the UN adopts a resolution called the Olympic truce, a perfunctory statement that invokes the ancient Greeks and celebrates friendly competition and "the cause of peace".

It usually passes with little deliberation, but not this year.

While world leaders grappled with the crisis unfolding in Syria, a lesser debate was unfolding over the truce, which was drafted by Russia and became the latest example of the complicated politics engulfing next year's Sochi Winter Games.

The controversy was over a rough draft of the truce that mentioned a promise to include "people of different age, sex, physical capacity, religion, race and social status", according to documents viewed by The New York Times. It made no mention of gay or transgender people, a particularly sensitive omission given the uproar over a Russian law that has been criticised as anti-gay.

UN representatives from around the world spent weeks pushing Russia to amend the language to include gay people, according to interviews with representatives from eight countries.

Last week, after extensive negotiations, Russia altered the truce's language to say that it would "promote social inclusion without discrimination of any kind".

The resolution is a goodwill gesture that carries little weight in the real world. It calls for a worldwide truce during the Olympics to ensure the safe passage of athletes and guests, and for the global community to replace the "cycle of conflict" with "friendly athletic competition".

Past truces, including the one that Britain sponsored for the London Olympics, did not mention gay or transgender people. But this year, with global attention focused on the matter, countries are aiming to set a precedent of inclusion.

Russia's law, signed by President Vladimir Putin in June, bans "propaganda on non-traditional sexual relationships".

It led to calls for protests and even some boycotts of the Sochi Games.

The International Olympic Committee said it had received "strong written reassurances" from the Russian government that all would be welcome at the Sochi Games, regardless of their sexual orientation.

The UN is likely to vote on the truce in the coming weeks.