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Published: Tuesday February 4, 2014 MYT 10:02:01 PM
Updated: Tuesday February 4, 2014 MYT 10:02:08 PM

Don't protest for gay rights in Sochi - Olympic village mayor

Svetlana Zhurova, former Russian speed skater and 'mayor' of Sochi's Olympic Village, takes part in a news conference in Moscow January 27, 2014. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Svetlana Zhurova, former Russian speed skater and 'mayor' of Sochi's Olympic Village, takes part in a news conference in Moscow January 27, 2014. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

ROSA KHUTOR, Russia (Reuters) - Former Olympic champion and mayor of the mountain Olympic village Svetlana Zhurova has appealed to protesters not to use the Games as a platform to protest about gay rights in Russia.

"I have never seen (this) at any Olympic Games and I would call on the people who are going to protest, that it doesn't make sense," said Zhurova, a gold medal winner in the 500m speed skating event at the Turin Games in 2006.

The Games, which open on Friday, have faced calls for a boycott from gay rights groups after Russia passed a law banning the spread of gay propaganda among minors.

But Zhurova said that sexuality was irrelevant in the context of competition, and that gay and straight athletes would be treated equally.

"For the spectators, it is more important who wins than whether he or her is homosexual or not," the 41-year old former Olympic champion said.

"We are all participants of the Games and we are going to applaud the straight people and the homosexuals just like the previous Olympic Games," said Zhurova, a competitor at four Winter Olympics.

(Editing by Peter Rutherford) nL5N0L922L

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