IOC moves to forbid discrimination in future Olympics

The International Olympic Committee now requires host cities to abide by rules that forbid any kind of discrimination, a move prompted by the outcry at the Sochi Games.

"New rules must prevent a replay of Sochi," says gay rights activist Andre Banks

IOC president Thomas Bach has been pushing a series of reforms to reflect a pattern of change within the Olympic movement. (Denis Balibouse/Reuters)

The International Olympic Committee will require future host cities to abide by rules that forbid any kind of discrimination, a move prompted by the outcry caused by Russia's adoption of a law banning so-called gay "propaganda" ahead of the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.

The IOC sent a letter to the three candidates for the 2022 Winter Games specifying that the host city contract will include new wording on non-discrimination.

The language, based on Principle 6 in the Olympic Charter, also includes a specific reference to discrimination based on gender.

The new clause — seen by The Associated Press — requires the host city and national Olympic committee to "conduct all activities in a manner which promotes and enhances the fundamental principles and values of Olympism, in particular the prohibition of any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise, as well as the development of the Olympic Movement."

The inclusion of the new language follows the global controversy that surrounded the buildup to the Sochi Games after Russia passed a law prohibiting gay "propaganda" to minors. The law was passed in the year before the Games and led to international protests by gay and human rights groups.

International gay rights groups All Out and Athlete Ally were among those pushing the IOC to add the language to the host contract.

"This ... sends a clear message to future host cities that human rights violations, including those against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, will not be tolerated," said Andre Banks, co-founder and executive director of All Out. "We will continue working to make sure this change is powerfully enforced.

"These new rules must prevent a replay of Sochi."

All Out is also urging the IOC to amend Principle 6 to specifically prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or identity.

Facing significant opposition

The three finalists in the bidding for the 2022 Games are Almaty, Kazakhstan; Beijing, and Oslo, Norway. The Oslo bid, facing significant political and public opposition in Norway, remains in limbo and could still drop out. The IOC will select the host city next July 31 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

In the letter to the bid cities, the IOC also states that it will make no unilateral changes to the sports program after the host city has been chosen. In the past, the IOC has sometimes added sports, disciplines or events three years before a games, bringing extra costs and other logistical challenges for host cities.

The new contract states that any changes made after the host city selection that create "material adverse effects" can only be applied in "mutual agreement" between the IOC and the city.

Pattern of change

The moves reflect a pattern of change under IOC President Thomas Bach, who was elected just over a year ago. He is pushing a series of reforms — called "Olympic Agenda 2020" — that will be voted on by IOC members at a special session in Monaco in December.

Cutting the cost of hosting the Olympics is one of Bach's goals. Several cities pulled out of the 2022 bidding because they were scared off by the $51-billion US price tag associated with the Sochi Games, although much of the money was for long-term infrastructure projects rather than Olympic operational costs.

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