Waving your flag at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Russia will be OK, as long as the flag isn’t rainbow, leaders there say.
Thursday, Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko warned athletes and visitors from other countries to keep their gay pride to themselves.
“No one is forbidding an athlete with non-traditional sexual orientation from coming to Sochi, but if he goes onto the street and starts propagandizing it, then of course he will be held accountable,” Mutko said in an article on Russian news service RIA Novosti.
Russia’s lower house, the State Duma, passed legislation June 13 that makes it illegal to promote a homosexual lifestyle. Passage was never in doubt as the measure passed by a 436-0 vote.
President Vladimir Putin, who likes gays about as much as he likes fair and open elections, said, “It’s not about imposing some sort of sanctions on homosexuality. … It’s about protecting children from such information.”
Companies can face fines of up to $30,000 for promoting a gay lifestyle. People would pay a maximum fine of $150 and can be detained up to 15 days before deportation for simply handing out gay rights pamphlets.
Even before the legislation was passed, participants in gay pride events have been visiting local gulags. They are the lucky ones. At least one gay man was tortured to death.
Openly gay speed skater Blake Skjellerup, who will represent New Zealand, vows to wear a gay pride pin from the 2012 Games while competing in Sochi. He said his message to Putin would be “know me before you judge me, and love is love, and I don’t think anybody should be persecuted.”
The International Olympic Committee recently stated athletes and visitors during the 2014 Winter Games would not be affected by the anti-gay legislation.
“This legislation has just been passed into law and it remains to be seen whether and how it will be implemented, particularly as regards the Games in Sochi,” the IOC said.
Gerhard Heiberg, a senior IOC member from Norway, said Thursday that in winning the games, Russia and the city of Sochi had committed to preventing discrimination of any sort. But he issued a word of caution to the athletes in an Associated Press story.
“At the same time we always say to our athletes, ‘We do not want any demonstrations in one or the other direction. Please, you are there to compete and behave. Please don’t go out on the Net or in the streets,’” Heiberg said. “I think it was very clear for London in 2012 and it will be very clear in 2014. Demonstrations in one way or another, no, but discrimination, absolutely not.”
Some are encouraging a boycott of Russian products, including vodka, and U.S. sponsors of the games, such as Coca-Cola.
Russian staple Stolichnaya Vodka is trying to stay ahead of the backlash. The company “came out swinging” against Russia’s anti-gay policies by saying it “stands strong and proud with the LGBT community.”
Locally, I’ve not heard of any bars banning Russian vodka. But those that do should consider Grey Goose, one of France’s finer liquids.