Olympics - 13 Aug 2013 - By Simon Ward
Ching-Kuo Wu, one of the candidates for the presidency of the International Olympic Committee, has insisted he will ensure that bidders to host Olympic Games respect the human rights provisions in the Olympic Charter if he is elected next month.
Wu was speaking in the context of controversy over a new ‘anti-gay’ law in Russia, which threatens to overshadow the build-up to the 2014 winter Olympic Games in Sochi.
The law, which bans “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations,” has prompted calls from a diverse range of public figures and pressure groups for a boycott of the games, which take place from February 7 to 23, and the IOC has sought clarification from the Russian government on how it would be applied.
Jacques Rogge, the incumbent IOC president, said last week that the organisation had received “reassurances” from Dmitry Kozak, the Russian deputy prime minister responsible for the Sochi Olympics, that the legislation would not impact on people competing in or attending the games, but that there were still “uncertainties” which needed addressing.
It is thought that these relate to whether athletes would be contravening the laws if, for example, they wore a pin or ribbon in support of the gay movement. The issue was discussed at last Friday’s IOC executive board meeting in Moscow.
Speaking to reporters at a briefing in London on Monday, Chinese Taipei’s Wu, the president of AIBA, the international boxing association, and a member of the IOC executive board, said: “[For] the IOC president the most important duty is to defend and protect the Olympic Charter.”
He added: “Within this meeting we discussed that we have to make the Russians fully understand, even the whole world understand, that the Olympic Charter is very clear: sport is a human right. This is applied to all whatever your nationality, race, sex or sexual orientation. Everybody has the right to go into sport. This is the message we should continue emphasising.”
While critical of the Russian law, Barack Obama, the US president, and David Cameron, the UK prime minister, have both rejected calls for a boycott of the Sochi Olympics, claiming that the best way to change attitudes would be for gay and lesbian athletes to compete at the games.
Wu said: “The message already given to Russia was very clear. But there are certain points that need to be clarified by the Russian authorities. We are still waiting for the Russian authorities to reply. [On] the anti-gay law, the Russians so far said they are not against the gays but they are against the propaganda for the gay movement to maybe influence children, that is their concern.”
“We want to know during the games what could happen in different situations. What are you [Russia] going to do? So we are waiting for them.”
When asked whether the Russian government was aware of the full consequences if it did not respond in a satisfactory manner, Wu said: “The Russian authorities know how serious we are at the IOC. We’re not joking. They really have to find the best solution and we are waiting."
He added: “We are serious. So I believe in the next three to four months it will be achieved and agreed what the best operation will be in the games.”
The IOC has been accused of being weak in its response to the Russian legislation but Wu claimed that, if elected as president, he would ensure that the organisation takes an assertive line on human rights in potential Olympics host countries.
He said: “For future games, in the bidding process, we should let every bidding city fully understand and respect what the Olympic Charter says to protect human rights.”
Wu continued: “We will make it very clear from the beginning, if they don’t follow [the Olympic Charter], we will have to remove the games to other cities. This should become a basic qualification if you want to apply to host the games.”
The AIBA president also reiterated other elements of his manifesto, including proposals to lift the ban on IOC members visiting Olympics bid cities, reduce the age of athletes taking part in the Youth Olympics and limit the IOC president’s time in office to eight years.
He is also suggesting that the high cost of the Olympic Games could be reduced by introducing a policy that at least 50 per cent of all venues be temporary, as opposed to permanent.
Wu is competing against Germany’s Thomas Bach, Puerto Rico’s Richard Carrion, Singapore’s Ser Miang Ng, Ukraine’s Sergei Bubka and Switzerland’s Denis Oswald to succeed Rogge as president of the IOC in the election on September 10 during the Session in Buenos Aires.