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SBD Global/November 19, 2013/Olympics

Sochi Winter Olympics Sponsors Feel Pressure Of Russia's Anti-Gay Law

The campaign protesting Russia's ban on "gay propaganda" is "entering a new phase, as human rights activists try to pressure the Olympics' top corporate sponsors to speak out" before the 2014 Sochi Olympics, according to David Crary of the AP. Worldwide Olympic Partners Coca-Cola, McDonald's and Visa "have thus far avoided requests to explicitly condemn the law." Human Rights Watch Global Initiatives Dir Minky Worden said, "It's taken months for the sponsors to formulate lawyerly responses that say nothing. We're going to work hard between now and Sochi to not let them off the hook." Both Human Rights Watch and the Human Rights Campaign "have written to all of the Worldwide Olympics Partners, urging the corporations to call for repeal of the Russian law." To date, according to the two rights groups, "none of the companies has taken that step," though several have "expressed general support for human rights and promoted their own nondiscrimination employment policies." Activist leaders said that there is "little interest at this stage in proposing formal boycotts of the corporate sponsors, but they hope to find other ways to intensify the pressure." Among gay-rights activists in Russia, there "have been mixed views of the protests unfolding in the U.S. and Western Europe." Nikolai Alexeyev, a pioneer of Russia's gay-pride movement, said, "These boycotts and protests have not made any gains for the Russian LGBT community and won't in the future. I believe that a lot of people in the West have been doing PR for themselves using Russian issues" (AP, 11/18).

WAITING GAME: R-SPORT reported the Russian government "should have avoided" an int'l outcry by "waiting to pass its controversial anti-gay law" until after the Sochi Olympics. Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said, "Perhaps the state authorities should have waited a little to include the ban on homosexuality propaganda in the law. It was possible to calculate how much resonance it would cause in the West, especially in the run-up to the Sochi Olympics.” Int'l opposition to the law "is founded on resentment of Russia’s strength" (R-SPORT, 11/18).
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Olympics, Russia

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