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SBD Global/July 29, 2013/Olympics

Russia Assures IOC That Sochi 2014 Athletes, Spectators Exempt From Anti-Gay Law

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).
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