Russia Is Persuaded to Alter Statement to Call for Inclusion
Reposted from The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/15/sports/russia-is-persuaded-to-alter-statement-to-call-for-inclusion.html?_r=0
Every two years, the United Nations adopts a resolution called the Olympic Truce, a perfunctory statement that invokes the ancient Greeks and celebrates friendly competition and “the cause of peace.”
It usually passes with little deliberation. But not this year.
While world leaders grappled with the crisis unfolding in Syria, a lesser debate was unfolding at the United Nations over the truce, which was drafted by Russia and became the latest example of the complicated politics swirling around next year’s Sochi Winter Games.
The controversy was over a rough draft of the truce that mentioned a promise to include “people of different age, sex, physical capacity, religion, race and social status,” according to documents reviewed by The New York Times. It made no mention of gay or transgender people, a particularly sensitive omission given the uproar in the West over a Russian law that has been criticized as antigay.
United Nations representatives from around the world spent weeks pushing Russia to amend the language to include gay people, according to interviews with representatives from eight countries. This week, after extensive negotiations behind the scenes, Russia altered the truce’s language to say that it would “promote social inclusion without discrimination of any kind.”
That was enough for all sides to agree that the Olympic Truce was back on track.
“I think it’s a very good outcome, and I think the Russians want to have a consensus to adopt this,” said Iakovos Iakovidis, a Greek representative to the United Nations, who was one of several officials in support of revising the statement. “I think people will be happy with this."
The resolution is a good-will gesture that carries little weight in the real world. It calls for a worldwide truce during the Olympics to ensure the safe passage of athletes and guests, and for the global community to replace the “cycle of conflict” with “friendly athletic competition.” It invokes the oracle of Delphi.
Even Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, said recently that the truce “may sound like something from the distant past that has no place in our times.” But he maintained that it was still relevant.
Past truces, including the one that Britain sponsored for the 2012 London Olympics, did not mention gay or transgender people. But this year, with global attention focused on the matter, countries are aiming to set a precedent of inclusion.
“Along with like-minded partners, the United Kingdom is keen to see principles of nondiscrimination included in the Olympic Truce resolution,” said Iona Thomas, a spokeswoman for the United Kingdom Mission to the United Nations.
Russia’s law, signed by President Vladimir V. Putin in June, bans “propaganda on nontraditional sexual relationships.” It led to calls for protests and even some boycotts of the Sochi Games. The International Olympic Committee said it had received “strong written reassurances” from the Russian government that all would be welcome at the Sochi Games, regardless of their sexual orientation.
The United Nations is likely to vote on the truce in the coming weeks.