Russian president Vladimir Putin said he hopes there will be no “negative implications” around the Sochi Olympics from his country’s law banning the promotion of “non-traditional” sexual relations toward minors.
Russian officials have said that homosexuals will not be discriminated against during the Games, Feb. 7-23, but that the law will be enforced.
“We have no laws against people with non-traditional sexual orientation,” Putin said, according to a 13,000-word transcript on the Kremlin’s website. “You kind of create an illusion among millions of spectators that we do have such laws, but we do not have such laws in Russia. Russia has adopted the law banning propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors, but these are completely different things.”
Putin was asked specifically about the term “propaganda” in the law, and what that could mean. Here’s the question and answer on the Kremlin’s site:
JOHN DANISZEWSKI: When the law says it’s a crime to do propaganda, would that include things like waiving a rainbow flag or painting your body in rainbow colours? Is that propaganda for young people? Will visitors and athletes have to have these kinds of concern?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: No. In Russia, people who initiated these laws and who adopted this law (I, by the way, was not the initiator) assumed that homosexual marriages do not give children. Russia is going through hard times in terms of demographics. And we are more interested in full-fledged families and more children. It is not the main thing in the whole system of measures aimed at supporting demographic processes. But I think the authors of the law were guided by the need to solve demographic problems and were far from the idea of infringing anyone’s rights. And certainly not during the Olympic Games or other mass sport events, especially the Olympics – one can be absolutely sure that Russia will faithfully follow the principles of Olympism, which do not admit any kind of discrimination, national, gender, or sexual one, mentioned by you.
Putin also said he works with gay people and has awarded them state medals. He praised famous 19th-century Russian composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky, who was said to be homosexual.
“We have absolutely normal relations, and I don’t see anything out of the ordinary here,” Putin said, according to The Associated Press. “Truth be told, we don’t love him because of that, but he was a great musician and we all love his music.”
Putin said he would be open to meeting with members of the LGBT community.
Putin was also asked about Sochi Olympic spending and said 214 billion rubles ($6.4 billion) will be spent to prepare for the Games in February. Of the 214 billion, 100 billion came from the government and 114 billion from “private investors,” Putin said.
In February, the Russian government commission said 1.5 trillion rubles ($45 billion) would be spent, slightly more than the Olympic record cost of the 2008 Beijing Games, according to RIA Novosti.
“This country may have spent more to prepare for the Games in general, yet it has not invested more than any other country in the Olympic facilities themselves,” Putin said.
Finally, there was this exchange:
JOHN DANISZEWSKI: Are you willing tonight to predict the gold for the Russian hockey team?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Of course, I can.
JOHN DANISZEWSKI: Ok, we will see.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: And what will you see? I have not yet told you what my predictions are.
JOHN DANISZEWSKI: Oh, I thought you were predicting a Russian victory. Or maybe just snow, there’ll be a lot of snow.