Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Team GB boss Mike Hay: I'll back gay protest athletes at Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics

Team GB chef de mission Mike Hay at  press conference during the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games in Krasnaya Polyana
Team GB chef de mission Mike Hay at press conference during the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games in Krasnaya Polyana

Team GB boss Mike Hay has vowed to lend his support to any member of the British team who wishes to speak out over Russia's controversial anti-gay legislation during the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Hay said the British Olympic Association (BOA) "would not impede" any athlete wishing to make any such statement, but would ensure it was made in a secure environment and abide by the Olympic Charter.

The chef de mission was speaking hours after Russia's deputy prime minister confirmed the Kremlin's view on gay rights in Sochi, asking athletes to "leave the kids alone".

Dmitry Kozak told reporters that Russian organisers will not discriminate against visitors or athletes because of their sexuality – but he backed the government's support for the so-called gay propaganda law.

Mr Kozak said athletes are free to express their views and discuss their sexuality. However, he asked them to stay away from children.

The 56-strong Great Britain team will be led into the lavish opening ceremony in the Fisht Stadium in Sochi tonight by short track speed skater Jon Eley, who will be competing in his third Winter Games.

The head of the Sochi 2014 organising committee, Dmitry Chernyshenko, maintains that protests during post-competition Press conferences will not be tolerated.

BOA chairman Sebastian Coe suggested that he would be surprised if British athletes decided to protest.

Coe said: "We are not stopping athletes from expressing their views but the Olympic Charter is very clear about athletes choosing to express their views in a medal ceremony or a competitive arena.

"I think the team is very focused and very keen to go back as one of our most successful teams ever to leave these shores. I think you will find all their focus is on that."

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