MOSCOW, August 14 (R-Sport) - In an interview with R-Sport, the CEO of the US Olympic Committee, Scott Blackmun, says he expects athletes to respect the law in the country of competition, a reference to Russia's anti-gay legislation ahead of the Sochi 2014 Olympics, and also reveals his stance on wrestling's place at the Summer Games.
What's your interpretation of Russia's anti-gay law and are there any measures you're planning on taking ahead of the Sochi 2014 Olympics?
"We've read the law, there are over 200 national Olympic committees, and it's not workable for each of them to develop its own interpretation and approach with respect to the law, so were looking to the IOC for some leadership in this issue. they have been in discussions with the Russian authorities, so we're awaiting for some clarification from them."
"Our job, first and foremost, is to make sure that our athletes are prepared to compete and aren't distracted while they're here. We're a sports organization, and we'll leave the diplomacy on the legal issues to the diplomats, and we're not going to get involved."
You might have to get involved if an athlete decides to make a protest.
"You can't judge in advance what you're going to do. Each Games is different. The athletes are always going into countries with laws different than his or her own country. They're going to agree with those laws in some ways, they're going to disagree with those laws in other ways. It's our strong desire that our athletes comply with the laws of every nation that we visit. This law is no different."
What's your reaction to Nick Symmonds' dedication of his silver medal to his gay and lesbian friends?
"I know he feels strongly about this issue as many Americans do, beyond that we really don't have any comments. We encourage our athletes to work within Russian law, and I know Nick is trying to do that as well."
What did you think of the lack of spectators at the start of these championships?
"I'm at a disadvantage because I arrived yesterday and the stadium was electric last night, so my experience is unequivocally positive. I saw a couple of competitions involving Americans and Russians – the pole vault and the hurdles – two great competitions, both well fought."
But did that make you worry that, when it comes to Sochi 2014, the Russians will only turn out to cheer for their own?
"Part of what's going on here relates to the fact that it's summer. When I was here in January it was much more crowded than it is now, so I can only presume that there are a lot of Russians who are normally in Moscow but are not now in Moscow, and that may have impacted the first couple of days."
Turning to the competition itself, how important was the agreement to include NHL players in the Olympic hockey tournament?
"I think it was very important for the players in the NHL. They really wanted to be a part of the Games. Players who made the team wanted to represent their country, and players who don't make the team will look forward to having a week or two off. So I think all the players really wanted this to happen, and the question was how did we make it happen on a basis that's economically viable to the league. And that's what took them a lot of time to work through."
You were at the top of the overall medal count in Vancouver. What are your expectations for Sochi?
"For us, we would like to leave Sochi believing that all of our athletes did the best they could do. As long as we can prepare them and create an environment where they have the opportunity to do the best they can do, then the medal table will take care of itself. So we don't have any specific goals on numbers of medals or anything like that. We focus on what we can control and prepare."
Where does USOC stand on the 2020 Olympic host city when it comes to the bids from Madrid, Istanbul and Tokyo? The vote is a month away.
"We don't vote, and so we have not weighed in or rendered an opinion or preference either way, and I think it'll stay that way."
What about one of the other big decisions ahead, on the future of wrestling in the Games?
"Before the executive board decision, I was a very strong proponent of women's softball, because it doesn't really have a global platform other than the Olympic Games. It's difficult to imagine the Olympic Games without wrestling, but on the other hand, these women really deserve to be in the Games. I don't feel the same way about baseball, because baseball has the world series, and women's softball doesn't have that. ... Without the Olympic Games, there's really no place for our women to exhibit their talent. The exposure's very limited."
But as a sport, women's softball is clearly confined to certain parts of the world.
"I think clearly that had an impact on why the decision was made a few years ago to drop softball and baseball. That was clearly a factor. But there's some pretty strong softball in Asia; it's not just North America. The current gold medalist is Japan."
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