A sports lawyer based in Sydney, Australia writing for the Sydney Morning Herald today about Vladimir Putin‘s anti-gay laws and the promises by Russian authorities to enforce them at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, offers this insight into the legal relationship between Russia as an Olympic Games host country, Russia’s legal commitments to the International Olympics Committee, and the IOC charter itself.
“Looked through any prism, Russia’s laws are a throwback to wicked Stalinist policy. This toxicity is though viciously amplified by the illumination of the sporting spotlight. These are heady times for Russia as an international host,” Darren Kane observes.
In “Russia’s stance should come as no surprise,” Kane writes:
Outgoing IOC president Jacques Rogge has in recent weeks and by equal measure both sought that Russia clarify what its laws mean, and lamented that the regulations pose more of an interpretation issue than anything else.
Rogge is adamant the laws will have no effect on the Games, as if such a reassurance is an antidote to the problem. Alas, the power of gentle words and quiet diplomacy to quell absurdity and the fear the parents of young athletes might harbour for the safety of their children competing in Sochi.
There is utility in the IOC reminding itself of its own Olympic Charter, which operates as the constitutional spine of the Olympic movement, the constituency of which includes both the Russian Olympic committee and the Sochi organising committee. In the quintessential motherhood statement, the Charter’s fundamental goal is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.
The Charter codifies principles that include the right of each individual to practice sport free from discrimination of any kind, such prejudice of whatever kind expressed as being incompatible with belonging to the movement.
For each city awarded the right to host an Olympic Games, the Charter requires the national government of that country to submit to the IOC a legally-binding instrument undertaking and guaranteeing that the country, and its public authorities, comply with and respect the Olympic Charter.
The IOC retains the right, at any time and without recourse to compensation, to withdraw the right of a city to organise and host an Olympics in the event of non-compliance with the Charter or any other IOC regulation or instruction.
If you can quote the rules, you can obey them. How the IOC handles matters, between now and February, will be illustrative as to whether the Olympic Charter is just empty rhetoric. Russia’s legal position sits in hopeless conflict with the undertakings given to the IOC.
Hollow promises that nobody is banned from Sochi, or even that the laws will not apply to Olympic athletes and spectators so long as they behave, fail to address the central abhorrence of the laws per se.
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