In Sochi, UN's Ban defends LGBT rights

The Sports NetworkFebruary 6, 2014 

Sochi, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Saying the eyes of the world are on Sochi, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced support for LGBT rights on the eve of the Winter Olympics.

In the first address of its kind, Ban spoke Thursday at an International Olympic Committee session.

"Many professional athletes, gay and straight, are speaking out against prejudice," Ban said. "We must all raise our voices against attacks on lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender or intersex people. We must oppose the arrest, imprisonment and discriminatory restrictions they face."

Anti-gay laws signed last year by Russian President Vladimir Putin were widely criticized and raised fears that Olympic athletes or visitors to the Games who are gay -- or suspected of being gay -- could be arrested or detained.

The laws instituted a ban on so-called pro-gay "propaganda."

More recently, the mayor of Sochi drew snickers when he said there were no gay people in his city and new IOC president Thomas Bach scolded world leaders who might seek to make political hay out of the anti-gay laws ahead of the Games.

While Ban was attending the Games, other world leaders stayed away, including United States President Barack Obama. The delegation sent to represent the U.S. includes three openly gay athletes.

In October, the United States Olympic Committee updated its non-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation.

Ban cited Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter, which says discrimination is "incompatible" with the Olympic Movement, and praised the U.N.'s own policy of anti-discrimination.

"The United Nations stands strongly behind our own Free & Equal campaign and I look forward to working with the IOC, governments and other partners around the world to build societies of equality and tolerance," he said. "Hatred of any kind must have no place in the 21st century."

Ban said sports has the power "to bring together individuals regardless of age, race, class, religion, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation and gender identity."

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