Badly played

The IOC shows Olympian disdain for its own principles.

If the International Olympic Committee thinks that the Russian anti-gay law does not violate its charter, it is in a bizarre state of mind. This piece of legislation, sponsored by the St Petersburg politician, Vitaly Milonov, and signed into national law by President Vladimir Putin this summer, has been used to crack down brutally on the LGBT community and has encouraged a wave of hate crime. It is directly opposed to the high-minded values of the Olympic Charter, which uses terms like "ethics", "good governance" and "equality" to explain the aims and objectives of the movement. These aims include acting "against any form of discrimination affecting the Olympic Movement".

This is the loophole that the IOC appears to have exploited to declare no conflict between its ideals and those of the homophobic Russian law, to allow the Sochi Winter Olympics to be held on schedule in February. The aims set out in its charter relate exclusively to sport, not to life, the universe and everything. If the IOC can reassure itself that neither competitors nor the audience will be discriminated against for their sexual orientation at the venue, it can breathe easy though Milonov has demanded arrests. If the very same people are violently taught family values when they step out, that is someone else's moral problem.

But the mission statement in the Olympic Charter asserts that the IOC exists "to promote Olympism throughout the world". Either it is misplacing its moral compass with Olympian resolve or it thinks that Russia is on another planet. The latter is a common misconception but, in this case, the former appears to be the problem.

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