An ongoing furore over Russian anti-gay rights legislation will not affect the Winter Paralympic Games in Sochi next March, Sir Philip Craven has claimed.
Legislation banning the “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” was introduced into the Lower House of the Russian Parliament in June and this prompted a series of international protests, including some calls for a boycott of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
This week one of the most high profile summer Paralympians, in the ten time gold medal winning British Para-dressage rider Lee Pearson, entered the debate by claiming he is “ready to go to prison for telling [Russian President Vladimir] Putin his anti-gay laws are an outrage.”
Yet, while he did not directly comment on Pearson’s comments, the President of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) does not see the issue as one that will negatively impact the Games next March.
“We believe that if change is to be achieved then the best way is to be in the nation where change is required,” Sir Philip, who is also a member of the International Olympic Committee, told insidethegames.
“We are very much a sports organisation but we have been in contact with the Russian Government and we have assurances this law will not in any way affect competitors, spectators or media.”
This confidence comes despite the fact that, as part of his lecture at the London School of Economics last night entitled “The Paralympic Movement Takes Off”, he had first described the four core values of the IPC as “determination, courage, inspiration and equality”.
To underline the point Sir Philip also emphasised the improvements which Russia had made since the last time an Olympic Games was held on their shores in Moscow in 1980.
On that occasion the corresponding Paralympic Games was held in Arnhem in the Netherlands after the Soviet Union had insisted “that they cannot take place here because nobody has an impairment,” he explained.
Sir Philip also expressed his confidence that the Games will be successful from a more general point of view, in the aftermath of the schedule of events being unveiled earlier this week.
“I think they will be great,” he said.
“I am saying that because of the experiences I had there in March when attending a meeting one year ahead of the Games.
“I saw the Russian state of neediness as well as the views of major Winter Paralympic nations who maybe didn’t come with the highest expectations but came away thinking that Sochi was ready for a great Games.”
Contact the writer of this story at email@example.com. Inside the Games is an online blog of the London Organizing Committee that staged the 2012 London Games. The blog continues to cover issues that are important to the Olympic Movement. This article is reprinted here with permission of the blog editors.