The Chief Executive of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, a Russian hand-picked by President Vladimir Putin himself to oversee every detail of the Olympics, says the President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was wrong to claim Olympic athletes are allowed to protest.
Organizing chief Dmitry Chernyshenko, a high-ranking government official even prior to Putin elevating him to head the Games, told reporters on a conference call today, “I don’t think they [athletes] are allowed by the Charter to express those views that are not related to the sport at the press conference room.”
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports Chernyshenko’s “position appears to directly contradict International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, who said athletes were permitted to make political statements at press conferences.”
Earlier this week, IOC President Thomas Bach had promised that every athlete would have the “freedom of speech.” The Telegraph added that “in his final media address before departing for Russia, Bach made it clear athletes would have a forum to air their views on the many controversies to have dogged Russia in the build-up to his first Games as IOC president.”
Chernyshenko noted that Bach “might have mentioned that there is a rule 50 in the Olympic Charter which limits the expression of any propaganda during the Games.” Reuters reports that “Chernyshenko, who headed Sochi’s successful bid seven years ago, said should athletes want to speak out about issues they could do so in a special location in the city, away from the Olympic venues.”
“What I would call the Sochi speakers’ corner has been organized in Sochi city so that everybody can express themselves,” Chernyshenko said.
That’s far from retaining their “freedom of speech.”
Should an athlete run afoul of the laws, or the Olympic rules, they could be kicked out of the Games — and out of the country, possibly after sitting in jail for a few weeks.
Image via Sochi 2014
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