Putin promises gays will be welcomed at Winter Olympics in Soichi
Russian president Vladimir Putin has promised that gay athletes and guests at the Winter Olympics in Sochi will feel at ease, seeking to calm fears fuelled by a recent law banning gay "propaganda".
Speaking at a meeting with heads of Russian winter sports federations, which was also attended by visiting International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach, Mr Putin said Sochi would be fully tolerant.
"On my own and on your behalf, I have assured Mr President (Bach) that we will do our best, and our athletes and fans will do their best too, so that both participants and guests feel themselves comfortable at Sochi Olympics regardless of their ethnicity, race or sexual orientation," he said. "I would like to underline that."
Preparations for the Sochi Olympics have been overshadowed by international criticism of a recently enacted Russian law outlawing "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors." Many worry that law may apply to gay athletes and visitors to the games.
The IOC has said it received assurances from the Russian government that it will respect the Olympic Charter, which prohibits discrimination of any kind at the games. Gay rights groups have accused the IOC of not doing enough to pressure Russia on the issue.
Mr Bach said he was confident that Russia will deliver a successful games.
Making his first trip to Sochi since being elected head of the IOC last month, he told Mr Putin he was deeply impressed with the amount of work Russia has done to prepare for the February.
He asked if there would be enough snow for the games. The city of Sochi is a balmy, palm-lined Black Sea resort, while the snow events will be held in the nearby Krasnaya Polyana mountains.
Russian deputy prime minister Dmitry Kozak, who is in charge of preparations for the Olympics, said organisers have stored 24.7 million cubic feet of snow as a contingency in case of lack of snowfall.