Vladimir Putin

Russian official: anti-gay law will not apply to Sochi Olympics

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A Russian lawmaker said a new law banning gay rights activism will not be enforced during the Sochi Olympics in February, his Friday comments contradicting what another official said earlier this week.

“The Olympic Games is a major international event. We need to be as polite and tolerant as possible. That is why a decision has been made not to raise this issue during the Olympics,” Igor Ananskikh, deputy chairman of the State Duma’s Physical Culture, Sport and Youth Policy Committee, told Russian news agency Interfax.

“Russia plans to host large international competitions in the future. The atmosphere at them must be as safe and polite as possible.”

On Thursday, reports spread of comments made by another Russian official saying a law against gay “propaganda” would stay in effect for those involved with the Olympics.

“An athlete of nontraditional sexual orientation isn’t banned from coming to Sochi,” Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko told R-Sport. “But if he goes out into the streets and starts to propagandize, then of course he will be held accountable.”

Last week, the International Olympic Committee said it “received assurances from the highest level of government in Russia that the legislation will not affect those attending or taking part in the Games.”

The IOC stood by that sentiment after Mutko’s comments. R-Sport reported the IOC’s government source outranked Mutko.

Russian news outlet RT.com explains the law here.

The legislation “prohibiting propaganda of homosexuality to minors” was enacted on June 30, when it was signed by president Putin. It’s an amendment to the law “On protecting children from information harmful to their health and development”.

If found guilty of promoting “non-traditional sexual relationships”, individuals could face fines of up to 5,000 rubles (US$150). The sum would be multiplied by 10 if those individuals appear to be civil servants. Organizations, meanwhile, would have to pay 1 million rubles (about $30,000) or have their activity suspended for 90 days if they do not comply with the fresh amendment.

IOC presidential candidate Richard Carrion issued a statement Friday saying the IOC should use “all avenues possible” to keep athletes competing at the Olympics from being subject to the law passed in June.

“We should use all the avenues possible for influence and diplomacy with Russian officials, so that this legislation will not create a problem for our athletes,” he said. “I am confident that the discussions going on now with the Russian authorities will help clarify the extent of the law and will ensure that our athletes will be protected.

“And, looking ahead, a condition to getting the Olympics games in the future should be to make sure the city does not have laws that discriminate against people in any way, consistent with the Olympic Charter.

“I strongly believe in equal rights, including the right to practice sport, for every human regardless of race, nationality, gender or sexual orientation. The Olympic Games celebrate humanity through respect, friendship and excellence. And one of the deepest core values of the Olympic Movement is ‘sports as a human right.’ Nothing should ever stand in the way of that.”

President Obama to female Olympians: ‘Y’all crushed it’ (video)

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President Barack Obama hosted the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams at the White House on Thursday.

Obama opened his speech by saying that he had planned on doing a floor routine with Simone Biles, before ultimately deciding that the room was too crowded. First Lady Michelle Obama interjected to remind the crowd that her husband “can’t touch his toes.”

The President then singled out the athletic accomplishments of Olympians including Biles, Michelle Carter, Simone Manuel, Claressa Shields, Kristin Armstrong, Kim Rhode, Allyson Felix, Brianna Rollins, Nia Ali, Kristi Castlin, Katie Ledecky, Michael Phelps and the men’s and women’s basketball teams.

He also recognized: Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first American to compete in the Olympics wearing a hijab, Sam Kendricks, the U.S. Army reservist who put down his pole and stood at attention when the national anthem started playing, Will Claye, who proposed to U.S. hurdler Queen Harrison after winning an Olympic silver medal, and Abbey D’Agostino, who helped an opponent to her feet after a crash.

“That is exactly what the Olympic spirit and the American spirit should be all about,” Obama said about the sportsmanship of D’Agostino.

The President was particularly enthusiastic about the performance of the female athletes.

“2016 belonged to America’s women Olympians,” Obama said. “Y’all crushed it.”

Watch Obama’s full speech here.

After Obama’s speech, Biles presented him with a surfboard autographed by the Olympians in attendance.

“I’m going to have a lot of time to surf next year,” Obama said.

MORE: Photos of Team USA at the White House

Photos: Team USA at the White House

Twitter: @TeamUSA
Twitter: @TeamUSA
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President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams at the White House on Thursday.

Below are some of the best photos of Team USA from inside the White House: