"The Olympic charter is very clear: it says that sport is a human right and it should be available to all, regardless of race, sex or sexual orientation and the Games themselves should be open to all, free of discrimination. So our position is very clear."
But within Russia, debate on the issue of gay rights is muted -- and barely heard outside the big cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg.
This may reflect what polling indicates is a wide rejection of homosexuality within Russian society.
Almost three-quarters of Russians said homosexuality should not be accepted by society, while just 16% said it should be accepted, a recent Pew Research Center survey of global attitudes revealed.
By comparison, 33% of people surveyed in the United States said homosexuality should not be accepted by society, while 60% said it should. In Britain, only 18% did not favor accepting homosexuality, with 76% saying it should be accepted.
Professor Dan Healey of Oxford University says Russia's modern homophobic attitudes have their origins in a Stalinist-era law -- but that today's politicians seem happy to exploit them for their own ends.
"It's Stalin who recriminalized male homosexuality about 80 years ago and that created a kind of atmosphere where first of all at least 26,000 and probably more like 50,000 gay men were arrested over the lifetime of that law -- and it lasted 60 years," he said.
Stalin's gulags also played a part, Healey said. "Because of the forced labor camps that 20 million Russians went through, a lot of people witnessed or experienced coercive same sex relationships and that has had a kind of cumulative effect on people's views of homosexuality," he said.
Under the law brought in under Stalin, "even voluntary male homosexual relations were punishable by between five and eight years in prison -- that's without the use of force or the abuse of a minor."
Male homosexuality was only decriminalized in Russia in 1993, under former President Boris Yeltsin, Healey said. But the problem was that no public discussion was held about the scrapping of the law, done to bring Russia's legal systems into line with European standards.
At the time, the public was more worried about the economy, Healey said. But since Putin first came to power in 2000 and with a return to economic growth, there's been "a turn towards conservative nationalism to try to stabilize the Russian state."
Against this backdrop, the broad vein of homophobia running through Russian society becomes a powerful political tool.
"Official homophobia is being used by the Putin leadership as a way of distracting public attention away from the fact that the economy is actually slowing down drastically," Healey suggests.
"Growth has dropped from about 4% per annum to only 1.5% this year and the ruble is dropping against world currencies, so there are concerns about dissatisfaction in the public. I think this is one way of distracting people from this -- by engaging in a kind of culture war."
Like Dittrich, he believes that Russia's leaders are trying to tap into this homophobic sentiment in order to differentiate Russia against Europe and the West, and strengthen their own hold on power.
"It's kind of a deliberate strategy to define Russia against Europe and against the West more generally, as a repository of 'traditional values,'" he said.
Putin has also brought his power base closer to the Russian Orthodox Church, Healey said, allowing conservative nationalists to harness the language of religion for discussion of political issues.
All this means that campaigners who seek to bring international pressure to bear on Russia over gay rights at the Sochi Olympics may risk playing into Putin's hands.
But, Healey said, there are powerful people within Russia who are more liberal and will seek to counter this push away from Europe and its values.