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Putin says LGBT people welcome at Sochi Winter Olympic games

Russian President Vladimir Putin told the head of the International Olympic Committee Monday that gay people will be welcome at the 2014 Winter games in Sochi despite the country's anti-gay law passed earlier this year that has been the subject of calls for boycotts and severe criticism.

"We are doing everything, both the organizers and our athletes and fans, so that participants and guests feel comfortable in Sochi, regardless of nationality, race or sexual orientation" Putin told Thomas Bach, the head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), according to a report by Reuters.

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Atlanta Pride Committee sounds off over Olympics concern

The Atlanta Pride Committee expressed concern today via a letter over the safety of gay and lesbian athletes and others in the American delegation ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

In the letter, the Atlanta Pride's Board Chair Glenn Paul Freedman encourages Lawrence Probst, chairman of the U.S. Olympic Committee, to use his position to keep the pressure on the International Olympic Committee ahead of the games to ensure the safety of LGBT athletes, tourists and others invovled with the games.

Freedman also offered to supply the American delegation rainbow flags to carry during the opening ceremony's Parade of Nations. See Freedman's letter, which was also sent to Congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.), Secretary of State John Kerry and others, below.

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Anti-gay laws spark international debate over Olympics

Vladimir Putin

Despite international media scrutiny and criticism from foreign heads of state and hundreds of thousands of activists around the world, Russian officials won’t back down from the country’s controversial law banning gay “propaganda” — prompting calls for boycotts of everything from the 2014 Winter Olympics to vodkas associated with Russia.

Passed unanimously by Parliament and signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 30, the law is aimed at protecting minors from “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” and is so vague critics fear it could criminalize simply being openly gay or expressing any support for LGBT equality.

The propaganda law, part of a rising tide of homophobia in Russia (see sidebar, “Russia’s attack on LGBT rights”), includes a clause specifically related to foreigners, who could face fines, 15 days of detainment and deportation. The clause raises questions about the impact on thousands of foreign athletes, staffers, media and fans expected to attend the upcoming Olympics, set for Feb. 7-23 in Sochi, Russia.