Since we identified the rising tide of international anguish about the the Russian anti-gay legislation and its potential impact on the Sochi Winter Olympics, the wave has morphed into a tsunami. Here come the latest updates offering a possible glimpse of what's to come in Sochi all too soon.
Yelena Isinbayeva v. Louise Hazel over painted fingernails.
Emma Green Tregaro's nails in the colour of the rainbow.
The rainbow colors with which two Swedish athletes decorated their fingernails in support of gays and lesbians in Russia brought a swift rebuke from Russian World Champion, pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva. She said: “It’s unrespectful [sic] to our country, it’s unrespectful [sic] to our citizens, because we are Russians, Maybe we are different from European people and other people from different lands. If we allow [them] to promote and do all this stuff on the street, we are very afraid about our nation because we consider ourselves like normal, standard people.”
British heptathlete, Louise Hazel, responded by tweeting “Yelena Isinbayeva’s ‘homophobic’ comments have no place in our sport!” and said to BBC Sport: “The International Olympic Committee should revise her position.” She added that Isinbayeva’s views had left her disappointed and in “deep shock”.
Just today, Friday, Isinbayeva seems to have had second thoughts, saying she was opposed to sexual discrimination, and that her English comments in support of her country’s laws may have been misconstrued. “English is not my first language and I think I may have been misunderstood when I spoke yesterday. What I wanted to say was that people should respect the laws of other countries particularly when they are guests. But let me make it clear I respect the views of my fellow athletes, and let me state in the strongest terms that I am opposed to any discrimination against gay people on the grounds of their sexuality.”
This furore came just days after Russian football chief, Alexey Sorokin defended the gay propaganda law and said that athletes would have nothing to fear if they didn’t “go out of their way to be actively involved in propaganda.”
Denmark and Germany weigh in.
Crown Prince of Denmark, Prince Frederik, the Olympic Committee’s representative for Denmark, has added his voice to the debate, commenting that Russia is acting contrary to the Olympic Charter and saying that Russia must not partake in discrimination against any minority group.
This represents the first crack in the IOC's submissive posture. See below.
The Government of Denmark has also joined the clamour, Foreign Minister, Villy Søvndal saying they would raise the issue at the European Council and potentially take the issue to the United Nations should Russia continue down its current path. He said: “The law is objectionable. It risks fostering discrimination and the abuse of minorities in Russian society – something we have already seen examples of, and to which the law gives the stamp of approval. We will hold Russia to its international obligations.”
Earlier in the week German Foreign Minister, Guido Westerwelle also released a statement condemning the “unacceptable treatment” of LGBTpeople in Russia.
Nick Symmonds makes his point.
US athlete, Nick Symmonds, who won silver in the men’s 800m at the Moscow World Athletic Championships earlier this week, added his voice to the protests. On receiving his medal, he vowed to do everything he can to help the cause.
He said: “As much as I can speak out about it, I believe that all humans deserve equality as however God made them. Whether you’re gay, straight, black, white, we all deserve the same rights. If there’s anything I can do to champion the cause and further it, I will, shy of getting arrested.”
Johnny Weir and Robbie Rogers are out and in the mix.
One of the first to comment on the mooted boycott, Johnny Weir, has become more explicit in his condemnation of Russian repression, while continuing to argue against any boycott by the athletes.
"Would the Olympics be in Saudi Arabia, in Palestine, in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Mars, I would go because that's what I'm trained to do and that's what I've devoted my life to," Weir told CBS. "If it takes me getting arrested," said Weir, "for people to pay attention and for people to lobby against this law, then I'm willing to take it."
Previously, Weir has been outspoken about opposing the Olympic boycott, articulating that it would negate the life-long efforts and careers of many young athletes. In this he is supported by out footballer, Robbie Rogers.
The LA Galaxy star said “Let’s hope that President Vladimir Putin and the Russian government have provided all of us with an international teachable moment. If we take the time to think about how to make that happen and don’t act impulsively by jumping on the boycott bandwagon perhaps the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia can be remembered instead for moving the ball forward in the fight for equal rights for all people everywhere. That’s my Olympic dream.”
However Rogers did go onto say that he took issue with the recent announcement that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) were going to penalise any athlete who went to Sochi with a gay rights symbol arguing that athletes should be “encouraged to carry the symbol of gay pride.”
See the next story.
International Olympic Committee (IOC)
The supine attitude of the IOC is already generating a huge backlash. Instead of punishing Russia for its brutal and indefensible assault on LGBT human rights, indications are that the (IOC) may punish athletes who wear pro-equality pins, patches, or T-shirts.
The Olympic Charter "prohibits athletes from making political gestures during the Winter and Summer Games. This prohibition could be used to "banish" Olympians who choose to protest, even silently, against Russian homophobia.
The highest profile comment to emerge from the IOC so far hardly inspires confidence. Lamine Diack, the President of the International Association of Athletes Federation (IAAF) and member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said that he thinks there is “no problem whatsoever” with Russia’s anti-gay laws.
Mr Diack went onto say that “Russian law has to be respected” and that he felt “we’re not going to be disturbed by political problems.” He concluded by saying that he was “not worried at all.”
Guess what? It is illegal to be gay in Mr Diack’s home country of Senegal where gay people face prison terms of up to five years.
The head of Sweden’s Olympic Committee, Stefan Lindeberg also ruled that political protests against Russia’s anti-gay legislation would not be tolerated in Sochi. Lindeberg announced the committees ruling in the aftermath of Emma Green Tregaro's celebrated painted nails protest, see above. Lindeberg called such protests “absolutely out of the question.” He went onto say that athletes could hold whatever views they like but “we can’t have athletes using sporting arenas to demonstrate these perceptions.”
By contrast: Finland.
The Finnish minister for culture and sports, Paavo Arhinmäki, attending the World Athletic Championships in Moscow last week, flew a rainbow flag at the event. The Finnish media reports that he waved the flag whilst watching the women’s high jump final, which, of course, featured Emma's lovely nails!
By further contrast, George Takei and Wentworth Miller.
Actors, too, have now weighed into the argument.
George has echoed our opinion of the IOC leadership with a personal condemnation of President, Jacques Rogge. “Rogge is a weak and spineless person. He says he’s talked to the Russian government,” he said in an interview, “and they won’t relent, so he’s thrown up his hands.” Takei is asking people to sign the Change.org petition to urge the IOC to remove the 2014 Olympics from Russia. If they can’t be moved, he suggests disqualifying Russian athletes for breaching the Olympic Charter.
Were this step taken, however,fairness would emand that athletes various Middle Eastern Islamic countries, and certain African ones should also be banned. There's where it gets tricky.
Wentworth, best known for his role in Prison Break, has declined an invitation to attend a Russian film festival because of Moscow's anti-gay laws. In the process, he came out!
Miller, 41, turned down the offer to attend the St Petersburg International Film Festival as a "guest of honour", saying, "Thank you for your kind invitation. As someone who has enjoyed visiting Russia in the past and can also claim a degree of Russian ancestry, it would make me happy to say yes. However, as a gay man, I must decline."
Miller added he was "deeply troubled by the current attitude toward and treatment of gay men and women by the Russian government," and did not want attend an event in a country where "people like myself are being systematically denied their basic right to live and love openly".
Hands against prejudice.
Pride House International, a coalition of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender sports and human rights groups, has launched a campaign that calls for athletes, spectators, coaches and attendees at the 2014 Winter Olympic games to hold hands to draw attention to Russia's violence and legislation targeting the LGBT community.
The act of same-sex hand holding will, beyond a symbolic gesture of unity and opposition, directly violate Russia's anti-gay "propaganda" law.
Russian officials have repeatedly stressed that the repressive laws will remain in effect and apply to all those attending the 2014 Sochi Olympics. The International Olympic Committee announced in a statement earlier this week that attendees and athletes must adhere to the anti-LGBT legislation.
Lustralboy says: Shame on the IOC for turning a blind eye while gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and trans people in Russia are being victimised, tortured, assaulted and killed on the streets of its cities. If the IOC continues to ignore Putin's bloody campaign, the IOC will be complicit in Russia's appalling human rights violations. IOC beware: this one will run and run!
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