7 Things You Need to Know About Russia and the 2014 Olympics
Russia’s anti-LGBT crackdown and the IOC’s failure to act in any meaningful way over Russia’s holding the Winter Olympics in 2014 has generated a lot of press this past week. Here are seven stories to get you caught up with the latest goings on.
1. Russia Interior Minister Confirms: Athletes Will be Subject to the Anti-Gay Propaganda Law
Russia’s interior minister, who in broad terms oversees the country’s police force, has reportedly confirmed that the anti-gay propaganda law will be in force during the Sochi 2014 Olympic and Paralympic Games and that athletes will not be exempt from the law.
“The law enforcement agencies can have no qualms with people who harbor a nontraditional sexual orientation and do not commit such acts [to promote homosexuality to minors], do not conduct any kind of provocation and take part in the Olympics peacefully,” an Interior Ministry statement issued on Monday is reported as saying.
This is contrary to the International Olympic Committee’s previous claims that they had been assured competitors, officials, journalists and spectators would not be affected by the law. It will also serve to increase pressure on the IOC to fully engage on this issue. So far, the IOC has only raised “concerns” and sort “clarification” on the law.
2. The IOC Will Punish Athletes Who Make a Political Statement
Seeing that a Sochi 2014 boycott seems unlikely, and that moving the games appears untenable because the IOC has so far refused to even consider the idea, you might have thought the IOC would allow athletes a measure of freedom to take a stand against Russia’s appalling human rights situation and show solidarity with Russia’s LGBT and minority populations. You would be wrong.
“…the IOC has a clear rule laid out in the Olympic Charter (Rule 50) which states that the venues of the Olympic Games are not a place for proactive political or religious demonstration. This rule has been in place for many years and applied when necessary. In any case, the IOC would treat each case individually and take a sensible approach depending on what was said or done.”
3. Meanwhile, Russian State Controlled TV Anchor Says Gay Hearts Should Be Burned
Dmitri Kisilev, the anchor of the state controlled leading news show in Russia, Vesiti, offered these chilling remarks while commenting on Russia’s propaganda law:
I think that just imposing fines on gays for homosexual propaganda among teenagers is not enough. They should be banned from donating blood, sperm. And their hearts, in case of the automobile accident, should be buried in the ground or burned as unsuitable for the continuation of life.
His comments were met with resounding applause, but you would expect nothing less from the propaganda media arm of the Putin administration.
4. Demonstrations Against Russia’s Olympic Hosting Status Begin
Hundreds of people protested in London, England, on Saturday to condemn Russia’s anti-gay violence and the IOC’s lack of interest in engaging on this issue.
Celebrated writer Stephen Fry and world recognized human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell were among those who attended.
During the demonstration Stephen Fry, recognizing that a Sochi 2014 boycott was now unlikely, encouraged athletes to show solidarity with Russia’s LGBT citizens by making a gesture as they accept their medals. Others have mused that participants and spectators might hold hands.
Antwerp also saw a large scale same-sex kiss-in protest with hundreds of activists kissing outside the Belgian city’s Russian consulate to demonstrate against Russia’s anti-gay crackdown.
More protests are planned as the February games near.
5. Hate Attacks are on the Increase in Russia
Commentators have strenuously argued that the federal propaganda law should not be the sole focus of the Sochi 2014 narrative as Russia’s backward slide toward persecuting its LGBT community started long before it was signed into law. What has been clear, though, is that the ban has acted as a green flag for anti-gay forces in Russia to step up their violence.
Indeed, a spokesperson for the international LGBT group the Kaleidoscope Trust told Pink News at Saturday’s London demonstration that: “Certainly our feeling and the feeling of our [Russian] partners seems to be that it’s getting worse in the sense these laws add to a climate of fear and also work to justify a range of abuses against LGBT people. Our partners in Russia are recording an increase level of violence: both spontaneous violence but also quite disturbingly premeditated and arranged violence.”
6. German Officials Condemn Russian Treatment of Gay People
While several leaders have called out Russia’s anti-gay persecution, including President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron, Germany’s Development Minister Dirk Niebel has perhaps made the most forceful of comments when he told broadcaster N24 on Monday:
“We must make clear when in contact with Russian politicians that this collapse in fundamental democratic values is not acceptable, and that Russia is moving towards becoming a flawless dictatorship.”
7. NBC Issues Memo to LGBT Employees Traveling for Olympics
NBC, which will be broadcasting the Sochi 2014 Olympics, issued a memo to employees on Friday reassuring them that NBC will take steps to ensure their safety if they are attending the Winter Olympics.
NBC Universal’s Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer Craig Robinson is quoted as saying that Russia’s propaganda law is “deeply troubling and diametrically opposed to everything that the Olympics symbolized.”
Exactly what these steps might entail remains to be seen.
So there you have it. The Russia Sochi 2014 controversy continues, as does the IOC’s virtual silence. You don’t need to wait for the IOC to take action, however.
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These companies have power to affect change by standing up for Russia’s LGBT community. Urge them to do so: click here to sign the petition!