MOSCOW - The International Olympic Committee is waiting for more clarifications from the Russian government on the anti-gay law that is overshadowing preparations for the Winter Games in Sochi, IOC President Jacques Rogge said Friday.
The law, signed by President Vladimir Putin in June, bans "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" and imposes fines on those holding gay pride rallies. It has caused a major international outcry and spawned calls for protests ahead of the Feb. 7-23 Olympics in the Black Sea resort.
Rogge said the Russian government provided written re-assurances about the law on Thursday, but that some elements are still too unclear to pass judgment.
"We are waiting for the clarifications before having the final judgment on these reassurances," Rogge said, a day before the start of the world athletics championships in Moscow.
In Washington, President Barack Obama said it would be wrong to boycott the Winter Olympics despite frustrations with Russia.
At a White House news conference Friday, Obama said he is offended by Russia's new law. He added that American athletes are training hard and it wouldn't be fair to deny them the chance to compete at the games.
Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko insisted Thursday that Olympic athletes would have to respect the laws of the country during the Sochi Games. On Friday, he said there was no way Russia would back down under political pressure.
Referring to Western criticism, Mutko was quoted as saying by Interfax: "I wouldn't call the pressure light. Russia must understand that the stronger we are, the more other people aren't going to like it. We have a unique country."
"We don't have to be afraid of threats to boycott the Olympic Games," Mutko said. "All sensible people understand that sports demand independence, that it is inadmissible that politics intervene."
On Thursday, Mutko did make it clear that the private lives and privacy of athletes would be respected as it is guaranteed by the Russian constitution
Rogge said that was essential.
"The Olympic charter is clear," Rogge said. "A sport is a human right and it should be available to all, regardless of race, sex or sexual orientation."
Even if Russia accepts that principle, the law leaves open the issue of athletes speaking freely during the games.
"As far as the freedom of expression is concerned, of course, this is something that is important," Rogge said. "But we cannot make a comment on the law" until the clarifications have been received.
The All Out advocacy group said it was happy with Rogge's comments.
"This is the strongest and most direct statement we have received from the International Olympic Committee. It shows the IOC is listening to the global outcry," said All Out Executive Director Andre Banks.
Still, Rogge pleaded for time to study the Russian reassurances some more.
"I understand your impatience to get the full picture, but we haven't (received) it today," Rogge said. "There are still too many uncertainties in the text."
Rogge said the problems seemed to centre on translations.
"We don't think it is a fundamental issue," he said at a news conference following a meeting of the IOC executive board with the International Association of Athletics Federations.
Associated Press writer Laura Mills contributed to this report.
Olympic rings for the 2014 Winter Olympics are installed in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, southern Russia, late Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012. With the Winter Olympics a year away, IOC President Jacques Rogge praised Sochi organizers on Wednesday, Feb. 6 and defended the $51 billion price tag.
In this Friday, April 5 photo ski resort employees scale down a pile of snow which is being covered by insulated fabric. The Rosa Khutor Alpine skiing resort which is hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics is set to store nearly half a million cu. meters of snow collected in piles and tightly covered with insulated blankets.
Activists of ultranationalist organizations rally in Moscow, on May 1, to call for President Vladimir Putin's resignation and a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.
In this Friday, April 5 photo a ski resort employee stands on top of a snow storage next to rolls of insulated blankets. The Rosa Khutor Alpine skiing resort which is hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics is set to store nearly half a million cu. meters of snow collected in piles tightly covered by insulated blankets.
In this photo dated Monday, Feb. 4, an aerial view of the Olympic Park as construction works continue in the lead up to the upcoming winter games in Sochi, Russia. With just one year till the opening ceremony of the winter Olympic 2014 Sochi Games, the Black Sea resort of Sochi is a vast construction site sprawling for nearly 40 kilometers (25 miles) along the coast and 50 kilometers (30 miles) up into the mountains, with no escape from the clang and clatter of the construction works, the drilling, jack-hammering and mixing of cement.
In this photo dated Feb. 2, the Iceberg skating arena at the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi,
In this photo dated Monday, Feb. 4, an aerial view of the Olympic Park as construction works continue in the lead up to the upcoming winter games in Sochi, Russia.
Activists from Reporters Without Borders stands in front a banner with blood-covered brass knuckles in the form of the Olympic rings which are displayed on the fences of the Russian embassy in Paris, Friday, March 1. Reporters Without Borders activists protest against the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics games in Russia and the working conditions against journalists working in Russia.
A Half-pipe is seen during of the FIS World Cup snowboarding half-pipe event, in Rosa Khutor ski resort, some 60 km east of Sochi, Russia, Thursday, Feb. 14. The Roas Khutor resort forms part of the venue which will host the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and IOC President Jaques Rogge, bottom left and second left, press a symbolic button to mark one year to the start of 2014 Winter Olympics, in Sochi, Russia, Thursday, Feb. 7.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and IOC President Jaques Rogge shake hands after pressing a symbolic button to mark a 1 year to the start of 2014 Winter Olympics, in Sochi, Russia, Thursday, Feb. 7.
Fireworks are seen over the Bolshoi Ice Dome stadium during a ceremony to mark a one year to the start of 2014 Winter Olympics, in Sochi, Russia, Thursday, Feb. 7.
The shadow of a performer is cast on a board as spectators watch a ceremony to mark the one year to the start of 2014 Winter Olympics, in Sochi, Russia, Thursday, Feb. 7. Russia on Thursday marked the one-year countdown to the Sochi Games, which are considered a matter of national pride and a priority for President Putin. The countdown celebrations culminated later Thursday in a star-studded ice show at one of the Olympic arenas, attended by Putin and IOC President Jacques Rogge.
A countdown clock for the 2014 Sochi Olympics is installed outside the Kremlin in Manezh Square, with Kremlin's Spassky Tower at right in the background, in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel)