Olympic committee defends much-maligned decision to host European Games in Polish ‘LGBT-free’ zone

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EU lawmakers criticised the decision to host the 2023 European Games in a Polish “LGBT-free" zone (Matthias Hangst/Getty)

The European Olympic Committee has insisted that there will be no discrimination at the upcoming European Games, despite it being hosted in a Polish “LGBT-free” zone.

Some 50 nations are expected to compete in the third European Games, an Olympics-affiliated event which was announced to take place in Kraków, Poland last year. The city is located in the Małopolska region, an area that joined around 100 other municipalities in pledging to oppose acts of tolerance towards the LGBT+ community.

Two members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and two lawmakers in Britain and Belgium said Małopolska’s stance meant it was not a suitable venue for the games.

The European Olympic Committee (EOC) responded to the criticism by assuring that both the Olympic Charter and the rights of participants will be respected to ensure there is “no discrimination of any kind”, Inside the Games reports.

The matter was raised in the Belgian parliament as ministers attacked the EOC for awarding the European Games to a region that has declared itself in opposition to key Olympic values.

Flemish MP Annick Lambrecht called for Flanders and Belgium to withdraw support for international sporting events in anti-LGBT+ countries or regions.

According to the Brussels Times, Flemish sports minister Ben Weyts agreed with her criticism but pointed out that decisions on the location of sporting events were not taken by governments, but by the sporting bodies themselves.

However, he said, the choice of Kraków-Małopolska was clearly “incompatible with the values of the Olympic Charter,” which the Olympic Committee was supposed to reflect.

“We are pleased that Minister Weyts acknowledges that for him the attitude of the region goes against the Olympic idea,” Lambrecht replied.

“We hope that he will raise this with the Belgian Olympic Committee and that he will bring the Flemish sports world together, so that the sports federations give a clear signal regarding this problem.

“We expect they will no longer support international sporting events in anti-gay and transphobic regions or countries.”

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