Despite a handful of out and proud athletes who have declared their intentions of competing in the upcoming Sochi Olympic Games, there are an unusually high number of celebrities and political figures who are doing the opposite. Thanks to its well publicized human rights violations and mistreatment of homosexuals, Russia is learning quickly that many in the international community are unwilling to go along with the status quo in the face of such controversy.
Here are six big names who will not be in attendance:
1. Joachim Gauck
In early December, the German president became the first major political official to announce that he would boycott the Sochi games. Apparently, Gauck informed the Kremlin personally that he would skip the Games to protest Russia’s human rights violations.
It’s not the first time Gauck has criticized Russian officials either. Since taking office in 2012, the president has attacked Russia’s “air of imperialism” and “deficit of rule of law.”
2. Dalia Grybauskaite
The ongoing tense relationship between Lithuania and Russia has made it easy for the Lithuanian president to boycott the Olympic Games. As she sees it, there is “no political possibility” for her to attend the event, citing both human rights violations and economic sanctions are a reason for personally boycotting the games.
3. Francois Hollande
Though not nearly as outspoken as some other political leaders, France’s president has declared his plans to skip 2014′s Olympic festivities. A spokesperson for Hollande acknowledged that there were no plans for the president or other high ranking French officials to make any appearances in Sochi. When pressed for further comment, the French Foreign Minister declined to make an explicit political statement, instead saying, “I wish all the success for these games.”
4. Barack Obama
It’s almost unheard of for the President (as well as the Vice President and First Lady) to skip the Olympic games, yet still it’s no surprise that Putin’s American foe has announced that he will sit out this Olympics.
While Obama hasn’t officially called it a boycott or a slight, the delegates he is sending in his place say more than words ever could. Three openly gay athletes — Brian Boitano, Caitlin Cahow and Billie Jean King — will officially represent the United States at the Sochi games in his place.
It’s Obama’s way of making a non-statement statement about Russia’s treatment of its LGBT citizens. To be fair, however, the Edward Snowden situation probably hasn’t motivated Obama to take a trip to Russia either.
After receiving an invite from an unnamed Russian VIP to perform in Sochi’s opening ceremonies, Cher says she “immediately” declined, adding, “I want to know why all of this gay hate just exploded over there.”
Although the lifelong LGBT advocate did not want to associate with the Russian government’s human rights violations, Cher is no stranger to the country, having performed there twice already in 2013. She agreed with her contact in Russia: “The Russian people don’t feel the way the government does.”
6. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova
Another musical artist you can bet won’t be making any appearances at the Sochi is Pussy Riot. The feminist band that gained international fame after being sent to jail on trumped up charges for protesting Russia’s church and government is calling for everyone to boycott the Olympic games.
Tolokonnikova, one of Pussy Riot’s members, has recently been freed from jail early in an obvious attempt to soften Russia’s image. Still, she has not been deterred from speaking out against the government again, saying in a press conference, “Whether one likes it or not, going to the Olympics in Russia is an acceptance of the international political situation in Russia, an acceptance of the course taken by a person who is interested in the Olympics above all else – Vladimir Putin.”
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