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Olympics 2014 Sponsors Need to Condemn Russia’s Anti-Gay Attacks

Olympics 2014 Sponsors Need to Condemn Russia’s Anti-Gay Attacks

Russia is set to hold the 2014 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. So far the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has refused to properly engage on the issue of human rights abuses in Russia, and their silence has been noticed.

Celebrated actor and Internet royalty George Takei issued a blog post this week calling on the International Olympic Committee to move the Games away from Sochi, saying:

Russia’s cynical and deplorable actions against the LGBT community have given license to hate groups within its borders to act with violence and impunity against a group, based solely on whom they were born to love. It now seeks to spread that hate abroad through its tainted Olympics. If Russia hopes to stand with the International Community, it must accept and adopt international principles of equality and non-discrimination.

Takei is not alone.

Noted writer and celebrated intellectual Stephen Fry this week released a powerful open letter addressed to, among others, the British Prime Minister David Cameron and the IOC, asking that the Games be held anywhere else other than Sochi.

While the letter itself is worth reading in full, the main thrust is the following:

I write in the earnest hope that all those with a love of sport and the Olympic spirit will consider the stain on the Five Rings that occurred when the 1936 Berlin Olympics proceeded under the exultant aegis of a tyrant who had passed into law, two years earlier, an act which singled out for special persecution a minority whose only crime was the accident of their birth. In his case he banned Jews from academic tenure or public office, he made sure that the police turned a blind eye to any beatings, thefts or humiliations afflicted on them, he burned and banned books written by them. He claimed they “polluted” the purity and tradition of what it was to be German, that they were a threat to the state, to the children and the future of the Reich. He blamed them simultaneously for the mutually exclusive crimes of Communism and for the controlling of international capital and banks. He blamed them for ruining the culture with their liberalism and difference. The Olympic movement at that time paid precisely no attention to this evil and proceeded with the notorious Berlin Olympiad, which provided a stage for a gleeful Führer and only increased his status at home and abroad. It gave him confidence. All historians are agreed on that. What he did with that confidence we all know.

[...]

An absolute ban on the Russian Winter Olympics of 2014 on Sochi is simply essential. Stage them elsewhere in Utah, Lillyhammer, anywhere you like. At all costs Putin cannot be seen to have the approval of the civilised world.

There are groups, however, that disagree with moving the Games, fearing the inevitable isolation that would follow a boycott.

The ILGA, for instance, has said that it is worried that moving the games from Sochi could give President Putin and his cohorts even more ammunition to self-aggrandize, in effect that they resisted the West’s attempts at importing acceptance of homosexuality, and that such a boycott would provide the regime time and opportunity to further pursue Russia’s LGBT population. In effect, that building a wall to boycott and punish Russia also builds a wall that cuts us off from the people who desperately need our help.

Meanwhile Russian lawmakers, the Putin administration and Russian ambassadors are denying there is a problem.

Russia’s sports minister has suggested gay activists should “calm down” about the law. Vitaly Mutko, who previously said that gay athletes would be subject to Russia’s propaganda law, has now once again spread confusion by saying that this is still true but, at the same time, that ”all rights will be protected.”

We would be forgiven for being puzzled by this when neo-Nazi groups recently tortured a young man who has now died from his injuries, while other individuals are known to have raped a man whom they believed to be gay, and when lawmakers are on record as calling for gay people to be whipped in the street.

It would also be easier to believe if Russia had not used paratroopers to break up human rights protests. Or, expanding our scope wider, if Russia was not detaining suspected illegal immigrants in what look disturbingly like concentration camps, arresting, detaining for prolonged periods or deporting journalists, and pursuing court action against any activists who dare speak out against these abuses.

Then of course there is the already well established human rights disgraces, including the Pussy Riot trial and imprisonment, the attacks on free speech and legislative attempts to purge Russia of foreign influence and oversight.

What Can You Do to Help in this Fight?

While opinion is varied, one common thread is clear: that the IOC’s persistent failure to engage with this issue is shameful, and that it amounts to tacit support for Russia to continue its onslaught.

The IOC has previously issued lukewarm statements that it is “concerned” by Russia’s anti-gay law, promising it has had assurances that LGBT athletes will be safe from the laws — assurances that have been contradicted by Russia’s lawmakers — but so far it has not engaged in any real way despite the Olympic Charter’s very clear commitment to human rights.

Also noticeably silent have been the sponsors of Sochi 2014. These are big companies, and many have in the past made quite loud noises about their “commitment” to LGBT rights. They include:

  • Coca Cola
  • AtoS
  • Dow
  • GE
  • McDonald’s
  • Omega
  • Panasonic
  • P&G
  • Samsung
  • Visa

While the Sochi Games suppliers include (not an exhaustive list):

  • English First
  • Jet Set Sports
  • Yamaha

Note that directly under the slideshow of sponsors on the IOC sponsor page, it says:

Support from the business community is crucial to the staging of the Games and the operations of every organisation within the Olympic Movement.

If the IOC refuses to engage, we can apply pressure to the Sochi 2014 sponsors, promising that if there is no action we will hit them, the IOC and indeed Russia, where they’ll really feel it: the wallet.

If they won’t hear the cries of the Russian people as they are regularly beaten, raped, imprisoned and even tortured, they might just hear the jangle of their frightened money.

Please, join me in calling on the Sochi 2014 sponsors to speak out against Russia’s anti-gay assaults and also to use their influence to bring about meaningful change. If these companies really do have a commitment to LGBT rights, as they so often claim, inaction is not an option.

Sign the petition, click here!

Signed? Please forward the petition to your friends. Thanks.

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Image credit: vayla v.

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100 comments

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1:57PM PDT on Aug 26, 2013

Response from Dow:
Dow is globally committed to equality AND diversity and inclusion. Dow supports a workplace environment of mutual respect, free from harassment, where everyone, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation is able to perform to their full potential.
As a TOP (The Olympic Partner Programme) member of the Olympic Movement and proud supplier to the Olympic Games for more than 30 years, Dow wholly aligns to the Olympic Games’ values of excellence, respect and friendship. We believe that the IOC will continue to uphold its commitment to non-discrimination in all aspects of the Games. We are engaged with the IOC on this important topic and support its recent statement that sport is a human right and the Games should be open to all, spectators, officials, media, and athletes, regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation. For more information on the IOC’s position, visit:http://www.olympic.org/news/ioc-statement-on-recent-russian-legislation/206969

9:58AM PDT on Aug 15, 2013

so much is lost in our humanity when it comes to money
corporations = profits
human rights = work force
compassion is lost
russia is hungry for the motherland to rise
for all the glitz and glamour russia is still a backwater country
this saddens me for i cherish much about russia
still for all who are in russia fighting for human rights you have my support
h there many in russia willing to fight for human rights

9:48AM PDT on Aug 15, 2013

so much is lost in our humanity when it comes to money
corporations = profits
human rights = work force
compassion is lost
russia is hungry for the motherland to rise
for all the glitz and glamour russia is still a backwater country
this saddens me for i cherish much about russia
however there many in russia willing to fight for human rights

3:42AM PDT on Aug 15, 2013

Actually you can be gay, you can't make it political. As athletes, they shouldn't be political anyway, otherwise the American would never have played the Chinese and the world would be a different place.

11:34PM PDT on Aug 14, 2013

Here's what's happening....Putin has been sucking up to the remnants of the CHURCH in Russia. They were major supporters of the Tsars and, if he plays his cards right, they'll support HIM in whatever move he's about to make!

Meanwhile, millions of older people, who sacrificed their entire lives, believing that the STATE would care for them in their old age, are now forced to beg on the streets for a few coins.

Churches are being restored to their original gold-and silver-encrusted states....while old people sweep the streets to ''get by.''

SO MUCH FOR A THEOCRACY!

2:56AM PDT on Aug 14, 2013

Anybody here like Russia's policy in Syria? Anybody like the tactic of turning off the gas that has to go through Ukraine before it reaches western Europe so they can bring the Ukrainians to heel, while freezing people to death? No? Then you need to wake up and realize that this is different than China's Olympics. Putin exports Russian psychodrama and harms people outside of Russia, and he does it very deliberately. Move these Olympics, and he's a dead man walking, out in the next election. He's a deeply corrupt, deeply paranoid head of the KGP. He is unfit for the job he holds and needs to go. Get rid of him, and Russia will become a reasonable partner. The Orthodox Church works hand in glove with him, and that is where this nonsense is coming from - the average Russian isn't dumb enough to believe that homosexuality is a western import, despite what you here on the news, nor are they particularly religious, though the freedom to openly behave as though they are has been intoxicating. What they are is buffeted by waves of misfortune and tumult that have been dislocating, in the extreme. You know what bugs them? Corruption. The murder of journalists. The arrest and show trials of people whose only sin is speaking out against the government. Get rid of Putin, and they have a chance. We all need to give them that chance.

1:26AM PDT on Aug 14, 2013

Signed and I will be boycotting the Olympics and the sponsors as well.

8:56PM PDT on Aug 13, 2013

CONTINUATION . . .

He is no different than the US right wing evangelical pseudo Christians who try to deny the LGBT community their constitutional and human rights.

Members of the LGBT community were designed to be LGBT from "the moment of conception". No one in their right mind would choose to be LGBT if they knew the shit and abuse they would receive. For those who refer to being LGBT as a lifestyle choice, tell me please when you chose to be heterosexual? What age? What made you make that decision? (and don't tell me because the Bible said so! Homosexuality is not mentioned in the Bible. However what is mentioned in the Bible is love thy neighbour, and you're not doing so shit hot on that account with your anti LGBT rhetoric and hate!)

@ Kevin B --- You crack me up! I'm fresh out of stars so to quote you "take one from petty cash".

@ Dale O --- well said

8:46PM PDT on Aug 13, 2013

Petition signed with comment:
Fundamental Principles of Olympism Rule 6 --- Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.
Further, Rule 7: Belonging to the Olympic Movement requires compliance with the Olympic Charter and recognition by the IOC.
Further Rule 5: The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of
practising sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.

So from this, I take it there should no discrimination nor threat of discrimination (and possible resultant violence) during practices and competition. How can that be guaranteed by the Russian government when clearly their anti LGBT laws have whipped up hatreds against LGBT people, foreign and domestic? Are sponsors willing to have their names associated with a government that openly advocates discrimination and violence? Think very very carefully on that as your decision may come back to bite you on the butt!
*************************************************************************

To me, this is a human rights issue and as such, needs to be acknowledged as such. Putin is from the old KGB guard and is very very right wing, a blind right wing. He is no different than the US right wing evangelical pseudo Christians who

8:26AM PDT on Aug 13, 2013

Olympics official, on UK tv, have said they won't consider moving or stopping the games as even though China's Human Rights are atrocious, the games still went ahead there...
Or words to that effect (I cannot remember the correct words but it was compared to China)

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