International Olympic Committee president meets with Putin and passes over LGBT invitation

Thomas Bach, the newly elected president of The International Olympic Committee, made his first visit to Sochi Russia and met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. But Bach has neglected to respond to a written request from a coalition of Russian LGBT organizations to meet with them during his first visit as well.

The letter — sent by email on Oct. 13 and followed by a formal request sent by post on Oct. 22. — was signed by Anastasia Smirnova on behalf of the Russian LGBT Network, Side by Side LGBT Film Festival, St. Petersburg’s Coming Out, the Russian LGBT Sport Federation, Arkhangelsk’s Rakurs, and the OutLoud Project.

When asked whether Bach would follow President Barack Obama’s example and meet with LGBT organizations while in Russia, IOC spokesman Mark Adams told BuzzFeed, “We have offered to meet Russian LGBT groups this week should they wish. We are always open for dialogue.”

The ambiguity in that answer troubled Human Rights Watch’s Director of Global Initiatives Minky Worden, who has been working with Russian activists and argued that it was not enough for a junior official from the IOC to meet with LGBT activists. If Bach, who was appointed in September, wanted to send the message that Russia’s crackdown on LGBT rights was counter to the Olympic Charter, he would have to commit to meeting with them personally, she said.

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