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IOC president hints at LGBT rights in Sochi opening speech

But Thomas Bach warns activists to let athletes compete

IOC president Thomas Bach stands next to Russian President Vladimir Putin for the Russian national anthem at the opening ceremonies of the Sochi Games. Credit: live feed from Sochi

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach hinted at support for LGBT rights in his speech at the Olympic opening ceremonies on Feb 7 but cautioned activists not to mar the Olympics with politics.

While he did not mention any particular group, he said the Olympics should unite people “without intolerance and without any discrimination for whatever reason,” a possible reference to controversy over Russia’s treatment of gay people.

Later in the speech, he cautioned activists to engage in “direct political dialogue” and not try to score political points “on the backs of these athletes.”

The IOC has told athletes that they may make political statements in press conferences but not from the podium.

In a meeting with Vancouver Councillor Tim Stevenson earlier this week, Bach’s chief of staff said the IOC is about to consider large reforms, including adding sexual orientation to the list of minorities protected from discrimination in the Olympic charter.