UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has addressed the International Olympic Committee just one day before the start of the Winter Games in Sochi, saying “we must all raise our voices” over anti-gay attacks.

In a keynote speech at an IOC session on Thursday, Mr Ki-moon was the first Secretary General to address the matter of Russia’s anti-gay legislation before the committee.

“Hatred of any kind must have no place in the 21st century,” he said.

According to AFP, although he did not specifically mention Russia’s anti-gay laws, he made his address in the context of heavy criticism against the IOC over Russia’s history of human rights.

He added: “Many professional athletes, gay and straight, are speaking out against prejudice. We must all raise our voices against attacks on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex people.

“We must oppose the arrests, imprisonments and discriminatory restrictions they face.

“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.”

In a statement made on Friday, Mr Ki-moon said: “The participants in the Sochi Games may carry the flags of many nations, but they come together under the shared banner of equality, fair play, mutual respect and non-discrimination.”

A federal bill banning gay “propaganda” was signed into law by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in June.