By Nathan James
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has confirmed it will punish Olympic athletes who support LGBT rights in Russia, citing its charter, a Games spokesman said today. The 2014 Winter Olympics, set to take place in the Russian town of Sochi, are a subject of controversy over that country’s new legislation criminalizing discussion of gay rights “any place where children are present.” Russian President Vladimir Putin has said authorities will arrest any athlete that “does not respect the laws” of his country, and the measures have sparked international protests, and calls for a boycott of the Games. The IOC’s charter includes Rule 50, which expressly forbids “political, religious, or racial propaganda at any Olympic site, venue, or other area.”
When asked if the IOC would include gay rights and gay athletes in the enforcement of this rule, the representative, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, “The IOC has a clear rule laid out, [Rule 50] that states the Olympics are not a place for proactive political or religious demonstration.” This means athletes–gay or straight–who express support for the LGBT community while in Russia risk not only arrest, but expulsion from the Games. The IOC’s clarification of its charter comes as it was petitioned by a Swiss LGBT advocacy group, All Out, and several Olympic players–including gay speed skater Blake Skjellerup–have already publicly vowed “to show Pride” during the Opening Ceremonies. Such planned athlete demonstrations of support for (and by) gays and lesbians are said to include holding hands and wearing rainbow-flag pins.
President Obama decried the new Russian law, saying he has “no patience with countries that treat the LGBT community…in ways that are harmful to them.”
The Winter Games are scheduled to begin in February.
Category: News & Politics