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Blatter says Olympic boycott would change nothing

FIFA President Sepp Blatter attends a news conference at the Club World Cup soccer tournament in Marrakech December 19, 2013. REUTERS/Amr Ab
FIFA President Sepp Blatter attends a news conference at the Club World Cup soccer tournament in Marrakech December 19, 2013. REUTERS/Amr Ab

(Reuters) - Sepp Blatter believes that any boycott of the Sochi Winter Olympics would change nothing and those who refused to go in protest against alleged discrimination in Russia would be "surrendering".

The president of world soccer's governing body FIFA, who is a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said he would be going and he expected that "unpleasant issues" would be addressed.

"These two events (Sochi and the World Cup in Brazil) have one thing in common: they have both been misused as a platform for political disputes," he said in his column in FIFA's weekly magazine.

"In the case of the Winter Olympics, this dispute is coming to a head with threats to boycott the Games.

"Such a boycott would change nothing. On the contrary, it may be interpreted as a refusal to establish a dialogue on the issue, as was the case with boycotts of the Olympic Games in Moscow in 1980 or in Los Angeles in 1984."

He added: "I believe that such a major event presents a perfect opportunity to strike up conversations and cultivate contacts.

"It is also likely that unpleasant issues will be addressed, because FIFA's fight against discrimination does not end with the anti-racism campaign.

"We must fight every form of social exclusion. Anyone who decides to boycott the Winter Olympics in Sochi will be surrendering on this important issue, just as anyone running away from a problem will never be able to resolve it.

"This reason alone is why it is important for me to travel to Russia."

President Vladimir Putin said earlier on Thursday that no athlete would face discrimination at next month's Games, hoping to ease international concern over a Russian law banning the spread of gay "propaganda" among minors.

Critics say the law is discriminatory and aimed at stifling dissent but calls for a boycott of the Games have failed.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has not commented on the controversial law, but some human rights activists are hoping the Games will be used as a platform to protest.

(Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne; Editing by Toby Davis)

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