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FIFA wants social change in Russia despite 'anti-gay' comments by 2018 chief

Russia 2018 World Cup chief Alexey Sorokin has weighed into the argument over new 'anti-gay' laws in his country.

Story highlights

  • FIFA wants clarification on adoption of new 'anti-gay' laws in Russia
  • 2018 World Cup CEO defends new legislation
  • FIFA wants 2018 to 'unite people and have a positive social impact'
  • Campaigners have demanded boycotts of Olympics and World Cup
Soccer's world governing body expects the 2018 World Cup to be a catalyst for social change in Russia, despite apparently anti-gay statements by the head of the organizing committee.
But FIFA told CNN Tuesday that it was seeking clarification on the adoption of new laws in Russia which "prohibit propaganda on non-traditional sexual relations" around minors.
The legislation also bans symbols symbols such as rainbow flags and has led to calls for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics and the 2018 World Cup to be boycotted.
Alexey Sorokin, CEO of the latter competition, defended the new laws, saying they had been misinterpreted.
"It is designed against active propaganda of homosexuality, not against homosexuality itself. That is a big difference," he was quoted in an article by World Football Insider.
"Would you like a World Cup where naked people are running around displaying their homosexuality? The answer to that is quite obvious."
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"The Olympics and World Cup are not a stage for various views -- not for Nazis, not for any other ways of life. It should be about football and nothing else."
FIFA said that its statutes had "zero tolerance against discrimination based, among other, on sexual orientation" and trusted that the 2018 hosts would deliver on their promise to provide all visitors and fans with a warm welcome.
"FIFA is firmly convinced that the staging of the World Cup can contribute to uniting people and having a positive social impact," it added.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC), under pressure to act ahead of next year's Winter Games, has publicly opposed any moves to stage boycotts, but told CNN it is keeping a watching brief on developments in Russia.
"This legislation has just been passed into law and it remains to be seen whether and how it will be implemented, particularly as regards the Games in Sochi," it said.
"To that end, the IOC has received assurances from the highest level of government in Russia that the legislation will not affect those attending or taking part in the Games."
Russia won the right to host the 2018 World Cup at a vote in December 2010 and pledged to build 13 new stadiums as part of a near $5 billion plan.
Billions will also be spent on improving infrastructure for the expected influx of tourists and football fans for the global competition.