The boss of the Team GB Winter Olympic squad has said he will not stand in the way of athletes who want to protest.

Mike Hay, the former Olympic curler who is in charge of Britain’s delegation to Sochi, has said he “will not impede” athletes who want to protest.

He told a press conference: “If an athlete comes to me and feels very strongly about being able to speak out, we would not impede them doing that, but we would need to make sure they are able to do that in a safe environment and their security would not be compromised.”

However, British athletes who protest at the Games might still face punishment from the Olympic authorities, as the Olympic charter states: “No kind of demonstration of political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas”.

Last week, Australian Olympic boss John Coates denied “gagging” Australian athletes by dissuading them from protest, but said any athletes who chose to protest on the podium would be “dealt with on a case-by-case basis”.

Sebastian Coe, chairman of the British Olympic association, said previously that Team GB’s focus will be on winning medals, not on protesting.

He said: “I think the team is very focused and very keen to go back as one of our most successful teams ever to leave these shores. I think you will find all their focus is on that”.