U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has condemned anti-gay discrimination and called on warring parties worldwide to observe an "Olympic truce," the day before the winter Olympic Games officially open in Sochi, Russia.
Ban spoke in the Russian resort town of Sochi on Wednesday, indirectly referencing a new Russian law banning the spread of "gay propaganda" among minors -- a law critics say can be broadly interpreted to crack down on support of gay rights in general.
The U.N. chief called for people to raise their voices "against attacks on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex people." He said arrest, imprisonment, and discriminatory restrictions against such people should be opposed.
He noted that the Olympic Charter states the International Olympic Committee's opposition to any form of discrimination.
"Hatred of any kind must have no place in the 21st century," he declared.
Competition under way
Meanwhile, some events are getting under way in Sochi, ahead of the Games' official opening ceremony Friday. Qualifying rounds in snowboarding, women's freestyle skiing, and team figure skating are scheduled to begin Thursday.
Organizers are on alert for possible terrorist attacks linked to the Olympic Games. U.S. homeland security officials are warning airlines flying to Russia to watch out for toothpaste tubes that may be filled with bomb-making materials.
The officials told U.S. news agencies there is no specific threat at this time, and they gave no details on the intelligence that prompted the warnings.
Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the Olympics village Wednesday and said that security remains a major concern.
Islamic extremists have threatened to disrupt the games. A jihadist group from Dagestan claimed responsibility for the two suicide attacks that killed 34 people in Volgograd late last year.
Russian media say an Islamic militant suspected of assisting the Volgograd suicide bombers has been killed. Reports say Dzhamaldin Mirzayev died in a shootout with police Wednesday at a house in Dagestan.
Russian authorities have spent an estimated $2 billion to shore up security in advance of the Sochi Olympics.