Swiss President Ueli Maurer plans to attend the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, despite other heads of states’ intention to skip the event in protest of a recent homophobic law. Maurer says he believes sporting events should not be politicised.
Maurer told the SonntagsBlick newspaper that there are better places on the world stage to criticise Russia, for example within the United Nations. However, he said, boycotting their Olympics “would be mean”.
The current Swiss head of state, who will hand over the reins to incoming president Didier Burkhalter on January 1, will attend the Winter Games in his capacity as the country’s sport minister. Burkhalter will also attend.
Russian parliament overwhelmingly passed a law banning the public discussion of gay rights and relationships in front of children. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the legislation, touted as a way to protect minors, but critics say its vague definition will lead to human rights violations.
Amnesty International called the law “an affront to freedom of expression and an attack on minority rights".
In response to a question about whether skipping the Winter Games would not send an important message to Russia about its legislation, Maurer said it would also set an impossible precedent.
"So that would mean we could not go anywhere, right? Not to any Islamic country because we have other legal concepts, and not to the United States because of the death penalty."
"If Russia has a different attitude towards homosexuality that does not suit me, I have to accept that," he added.
Neither US President Barack Obama nor French President François Hollande will attend the Winter Games, the former for “scheduling reasons”. Hollande has not publicly explained his absence.
German President Joachim Gauck will not attend either; Maurer said in his interview with SonntagsBlick that his German counterpart's decision was more complicated because he is also a clergyman.
swissinfo.ch and agencies