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Olympic committee pledges to protect gays in anti-gay Russia during 2014 Games

There are 199 days before the Winter Olympics opening ceremony in Sochi, Russia, where the government has enacted a law allowing for the arrest of openly gay citizens and tourists.

The International Olympic Committee, in a statement circulating on the Web, has pledged to protect gay athletes who go to Russia to compete.

The statement says, “The International Olympic Committee is clear that sport is a human right and should be available to all regardless of race, sex or sexual orientation.”

The committee went on to state that the “Games can take place without discrimination against athletes, officials, spectators and the media.”

It is not clear how the committee will protect gays or whether the IOC has obtained from the Russian government some commitment that authorities will suspend enforcement of the anti-gay law, which bans “propaganda” promoting homosexuality.

Foreigners can be jailed for two weeks and also deported if convicted under the law, which has been blamed for a wave of anti-gay violence in the country.

Earlier this month, the Russian LGBT Network reported that four Dutch visitors were arrested in Murmansk under the measure signed into law by President Vladimir Putin. The visitors were shooting video for a film at an LGBT community center.

The network also reported that police took Russian citizens into custody in the incident.

The anti-gay law has led some human rights activists to call for a boycott of the Olympics.

More than 2,500 athletes are expected to compete in seven sports during the 17 days of the Games.

The torch relay will begin on Oct. 7 in Russia and will involve 14,000 torchbearers and a trip to space and back.

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