Ban Ki-moon condemns homophobia; Sochi organisers say ‘talk sport, not politics’.

He was happy to join in the festive spirit for the Games by running along dressed in a colourful tracksuit at an Olympic parade in Sochi.

But the UN Secretary General was totally serious with some forthright comments condemning homophobia.

Ban Ki-moon did not mention directly Russia’s controversial laws against so-called “gay propaganda”.

Ban Ki Moon against homophobia

But speaking before the International Olympic Committee, he said that hatred had “no place in the 21st century”.

“We must all raise our voices against attacks on lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender or intersex people. We must oppose the arrests, imprisonment and discriminatory restrictions they face,” he said.

Human rights campaigners have reported a rise in hate attacks on homosexual people in Russia in recent years. The country’s new law, passed by the Russian parliament last summer, means people can be fined for providing information about paedophilia or homosexuality to anyone under 18.

Following Ban Ki-moon’s message, the Games’ chief organiser appeared to backtrack on previous comments, saying that political views should be kept both off the podium and away from press conferences.

Dmitry Chernyshenko, President of the Sochi Olympic Organising Committee, told euronews that nothing would happen if people spoke out on gay rights.

But he had this reminder for athletes: “I mean that during the sporting competitions, the Olympic games, the Olympic charter is in effect, and its rules prohibit all kinds of propaganda, no matter what, because this is a festival of sport. Let’s talk about sport, not politics.”

Despite the politics and security fears looming over the Olympics – not for the first time – athletes and sports fans are getting ready for the Games themselves.

Euronews correspondent in Sochi, Denis Loctier, said: “The final hours are being counted down till the opening of the XXII Winter Olympic Games here in Sochi: very soon, after years of expensive preparation, the first Olympics in Russia’s post-Soviet history will officially start.”