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SBD Global/July 29, 2013/OlympicsPrint All
The IOC said that it has received assurances from Russia's government that athletes and spectators at next year's Winter Olympics in Sochi "will be exempt from a controversial law banning anything deemed to promote homosexuality," according to the MOSCOW TIMES. Since it was signed into law by President Vladimir Putin last month, "the legislation targeting so-called homosexual propaganda has attracted calls from activists around the world to boycott Russia's first Winter Olympics." The IOC said, "As a sporting organization, what we can do is to continue to work to ensure that the Games can take place without discrimination against athletes, officials, spectators and the media. To that end, the IOC has received assurances from the highest level of government in Russia that the legislation will not affect those attending or taking part in the Games" (MOSCOW TIMES, 7/26).
COMING CRITICISM: R-SPORT reported while the law's proponents argue that it is aimed at protecting children from harmful influences, "critics allege that the move is part of a broader crackdown on Russia's gay community." Russia has come under int'l criticism, "including from the European Court of Human Rights, for its treatment of gay people." The anti-gay law "imposes fines for such offenses" from 800,000 rubles ($24,000) to 1M rubles ($30,500) for legal entities, from 4,000 rubles ($120) to 5,000 rubles ($150) for individuals and from 40,000 rubles ($1,220) to 50,000 rubles ($1,530) for officials. Promotion of such relations with the use of mass media or Internet resources will see harsher penalties of 50,000-100,000 rubles ($1,520-$3,050) for individuals, 100,000-200,000 rubles ($3,050-$6,100) for officials and 1M rubles "or 90-day suspension for legal entities" (R-SPORT, 7/26).
SECURITY CONCERNS: In L.A., Daniel Rothberg wrote these laws come just months before Russia will host the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, "and as a result, they have prompted valid concerns about the safety and security of visitors to the events." But given the intense int'l scrutiny that will be placed on Russia during the Games, it is "highly unlikely that the government would take a controversial action against a pro-gay or openly gay athlete from another country." As the U.S. trends toward widening rights for the LGBT community while Russia walks further away, "some have called for a boycott of the Olympics." Though well-intentioned, "a boycott would do more harm than good." On the flip-side, "participating in the Olympics, as an LGBT athlete or an ally (Russia targets both), would do more good than harm" (L.A. TIMES, 7/26).
In Mexico, earning an Olympic medal "represents an increase in popularity" for any sport, according to Carlos Cruz of LA AFICION. This "is the case for archery, synchronized diving and taekwondo, which earned six of Mexico's seven medals" at the 2012 London Games. The Mexican football team earned a Gold Medal, "but this was already the most popular sport in the country." After "a silver and bronze in London, archery became a sport to follow, while synchronized diving, with two second-place finishes and a third place finish, has spread despite not all Mexican states practicing the sport." Taekwondo has "also maintained the interest of the people, to the point that some have taken advantage by creating taekwondo schools in whatever space is available."
ARCHERY: Archery began to gain popularity during the 2008 Beijing Games, when Juan René Serrano of Mexico finished fourth. Mexican Archery Federation President Effy Sanchez said, "The popularity of archery continues to grow. In Baja California they told me that before the medal there were 50 people indicating interest in archery, but there were 150 after the medal. In Yucatán there were 70 archers before the medal and they are beginning this season with 270." A "specific case of this" has taken place at the University of Mexico (UNAM). UNAM Archery Association President Miguel Ángel García said, "Before the London 2012 Games there were 100 occasional archers, and after, there has been between 300 to 500. There are now 100 people practicing archery regularly, and before the Olympics, there were between 30 and 50. At UNAM there has been a complete revolution and we have never had this much growth in our sport. Before the Olympics we had a modest archery field of 35 meters and after London a new 50-meter field that cost more than 2M pesos ($160,000) was created."
SYNCHRONIZED DIVING: After the three medals Mexico won at the London 2012 Games -- two silvers by the duos of Iván García and Germán Sánchez, and Paola Espinosa and Alejandra Orozco and a bronze by Laura Sánchez -- synchronized diving became the sport with the most Olympic medals in the country's history. Still, "it is a sport that does not have a ton of participants, with only 700 members of the Mexican Swimming Federation (FMN)." FMN President Kiril Todorov said, "I have no doubt that based on the results of the last Olympics, Mexico's synchronized divers are currently in their most productive era in terms of image and results, but they still need more participants. We have to spread the sport so that the people can see that it is a sport in which Mexico is among the world's elite."
TAEKWONDO: Since taekwondo was included at the 2000 Sydney Games, Mexico "has always had a presence among medalists, and this has allowed the sport's popularity to continue growing and being practiced in schools and at clubs." Mexican Taekwondo Federation President Juan Manuel López said, "Taekwondo's growth has increased and it is now practiced in public and private schools and on sports teams, and this has put our national teams at an impressive level. One example is in Aguascalientes. There, we have increased from 12 schools with taekwondo facilities to 25." In Mexico City, the popularity has "grown so much that there are now 1,500 public places where taekwondo is practiced" (LA AFICION, 7/27).