Russian former chess great and fierce Kremlin critic Garry Kasparov says the Sochi Winter Olympics promoted “dictatorship” in the country and called on athletes to protest.
Kasparov, in Ghana to push his bid to be head of the world chess federation, has previously slammed the staging of the Games in the Black Sea resort, claiming infrastructure would not be ready.
The Games open on February 7 but have faced concerns about security and boycott threats after international condemnation at Russia’s passing of a controversial law banning gay “propaganda”.
“Participating in this event, especially the opening ceremony, gives a boost to the dictator because that’s all he needs, just to be sort of in the centre of public attention,” Kasparov told AFP in Accra on Thursday, referring to President Vladimir Putin.
Kasparov, 50, has been a relentless critic of Putin and last year organised protests against the government for its passing of the gay law, which has led to claims of a rise in hate crime.
The Grandmaster, a former world number one widely considered the greatest chess player of all time, singled out the International Olympic Committee for not taking a stand.
“They (the IOC) did statements all the time, 1968 in Mexico, for instance,” he said, referring to the “Black Power” salute of US athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos during their medal ceremony.
“We are witnessing the Olympics that are blatantly used for the promotion of the dictatorship,” he added.
Smith and Carlos, gold and bronze medallists in the 200m, raised a gloved fist each during the playing of the US national anthem in support of the civil rights struggle in their homeland.
Kasparov’s call echoes groups such as Amnesty International, which said the IOC’s silence in the face of Russia’s crackdown on free speech and fundamental rights made a mockery of its charter.