In the first address by a United Nations secretary general to an International Olympic Committee (IOC) session, Ban Ki-moon condemned discrimination and attacks on people based on their sexual orientation.
Speaking on the eve of the Feb. 7-23 Sochi Games opening ceremony, Ban said: "Hatred of any kind must have no place in the 21st century."
Russia, hosting a winter Games for the first time, has come under mounting criticism since the government passed an anti-gay propaganda law last year which critics say curtails rights of homosexuals and discriminates against them. "We must all raise our voices against attacks on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex people," Ban told the IOC session in the Black Sea resort on Thursday. "We must oppose the arrests, imprisonments and discriminatory restrictions they face."
Russian President Vladimir Putin has defended the law as protecting minors and has said homosexuals will not be discriminated against during the Sochi Olympics. Ban said sport had the power to further human rights but made no specific reference to the controversial law in Russia or the country itself. "I know that Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter enshrines the IOC's opposition to any form of discrimination," he said.
"The United Nations stands strongly behind our own 'Free and Equal' campaign, and I look forward to working with the IOC, governments and other partners around the world to build societies of equality and tolerance."
Sochi Games officials have said protests to oppose the law had no place in the city during the Olympics.