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Will Russia Arrest Gay Athletes at Olympics?

Despite assurances given to the International Olympic Committee by the Russian government, the legislator who sponsored that appalling bill that bans pro-gay “propaganda” says that nation will arrest any athlete or tourist who violates the law.

A Russian lawmaker has said the ‘gay propaganda’ law will remain enforced during the Sochi Winter Olympic Games in 2014.

Vitaly Milonov, co-sponsor of the ‘non-traditional relationships’ bill, said the government cannot decide when to selectively enforce the law.

It comes as the International Olympic Committee said the Russian government had ‘assured’ them all athletes and spectators will be safe from arrest.

Speaking to Interfax and as translated by GSN, Milonov said: ‘I have not heard any comments from the government of the Russian Federation but I know it is acting in accordance with Russian law.

‘If a law has been approved by the federal legislature and signed by the president, then the government has no right to suspend it. It doesn’t have the authority.’

Given the attention paid to the law, it’s pretty certain that at least one gay Olympic athlete or an ally is going to take the opportunity to speak up in favor of equality. Would they really arrest them for that? I find it hard to believe they would. Even an authoritarian thug like Putin knows that it would be a PR disaster for his country.

Comments

  1. slchonda says

    Even an authoritarian thug like Putin knows that it would be a PR disaster for his country.

    You mean that the guy who refuses to extradite Snowden is an authoritarian thug? According to some of Snowden’s defenders, Putin is a hero.

  2. Kaintukee Bob says

    slchonda: one good action (which was entirely possibly made simply to gain international approval and stick a thumb in the US government’s eye) doesn’t erase his past actions.

  3. Rip Steakface says

    @1

    Putin is an authoritarian, no doubt about it. The United Russia party dominates their politics, with only the Communist Party even putting up a semblance of opposition – and they’re all old fogeys from the days of the USSR.

  4. Chiroptera says

    Kaintukee Bob, #2:

    Uh-oh. According to the apologists for US authoritarianism, you just called Putin a hero.

    (No, I don’t understand that Manichean black-and-white thinking either, but there you have it.)

  5. unnullifier says

    The International Olympic Committee typically has a stronger muscle than most nations because hosting the Olympic Games is seen as some sort of badge of national pride. Countries will twist themselves into pretzels to satisfy the IOC if they care at all about hosting the games.

    Whether this law is upheld against non-Russians during the games will likely depend on the IOC. And given that the IOC is largely an extra-legal corporate entity that works with other corporate sponsors, the best way to get them to care is to contact Olympic sponsors and let them know you’re going to boycott their product specifically due to this law and Russia being the host of the games. Also spreading the word around that you’re boycotting as well.

    If Olympic sponsors see this association as damaging to their reputation and profits, then they’ll lean on the IOC which will lean on Russia. And as I said, if a country wants to host the Olympic games (and many do) then they will pay close attention to what the IOC wants. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be shocked to see some people arrested for the grievous crime of “being gay” during the games.

  6. Stacey C. says

    I’d love to support a boycott and felt it was the right thing until I heard an interview with Johnny Weir this morning. He is *obviously* *unabashedly* gay but he says that boycotting only hurts the athletes. Which makes sense. SIGH.

  7. says

    Will Russia Arrest Gay Athletes at Olympics? Only if they win against Russian athletes.

    Even an authoritarian thug like Putin knows that it would be a PR disaster for his country.

    “Disaster” how? Russia’s image is already in the toilet, and his response to the Pussy Riot affair shows he’s quite willing to brand any form of dissent as “foreign” and bravely stand against it to show how tough a nationalist he is. His party have a lock on their electoral process, the Russian Orthodox establishment will praise his Holy Russian godliness, the people will get the message (again) that any sort of resistance or nonconformity is futile, and any reaction from abroad will only feed their longstanding political culture of xenophobia and self-pity.

    …only the Communist Party even putting up a semblance of opposition…

    …because it’s growing, as people realize that the overthrow of Communism didn’t make things all that much better for the people after all.

  8. says

    This is appalling and frightening. I feel shaken, and I’m only an observer without a personal stake in it; I can’t imagine what this must mean to those who are directly affected and who hope to attend the event.

    Seems as though the IOC itself should boycott the event – that is, cancel the whole thing and relocate it to another city that has recently hosted the Winter Olympics and has the infrastructure in place. I’m sure that’s not possible legally (contracts, etc.), but it would be the right thing to do, morally and ethically, and perhaps also from a risk management perspective. I wonder to what extent the IOC would be liable if anything happened to any Olympic athlete, employee, etc., because of this inhumane Russian law.

  9. cptdoom says

    Whether this law is upheld against non-Russians during the games will likely depend on the IOC.

    I’m more appalled that people might be willing to overlook the oppression of LGBT Russians because the Olympic athletes and spectators would have a special exemption. Right now, gay teens in Russia are being lured by skinheads via social media – thinking they’re meeting another gay person – and being kidnapped, beaten and humiliated – all on film. Then the films are posted so that the teens’ families can all find out what’s happened and the kids can be outed. The same sort of thugs have been attacking Pride parades and demonstrations for years, typically without any police interference, if not police assistance. No decree is going to protest the athletes and spectators from those thugs, and it is sickening to think the global community would simply ignore these realities once the Olympics were over.

  10. Stacey C. says

    Let me state that I *unequivocally* abhor this ridiculous attempt by the Russian government to punish people because they are gay or support gays. I’d boycott the whole damn country if there was a way (I don’t think anything I buy or consume is made in Russia). I usually barely watch the Olympics anyways. I just thought it was an interesting counter perspective to have an out gay athlete say that a boycott doesn’t help.

  11. unnullifier says

    @7. Stacey C. : I guess it depends on your perspective. It’s hard for me to feel sympathy for Olympic athletes when the IOC tramples the rights of citizens with lapdog host nations doing the IOC’s bidding. The most common are special intellectual property laws that nations enact just for the IOC, so that it can sue anyone and everyone into oblivion that it thinks is improperly benefiting from IOC IP. During the London Games, residents nearby had the wonderful experience of having missile launchers mounted on the roofs of their apartment buildings despite their wishes not to because the IOC wanted more “security” for the London Games. Additionally the London police were granted extra-legal powers to enter homes without a warrant, free speech was suppressed (especially if you had anything bad to say about the Olympics), and almost comically, there was a “brand” police going around covering up all logos and brand names that were not from official sponsors within a certain radius of the games.
    So I think Weir’s “[...] The Olympics are not a political statement, they are a place to let the world shine in peace and let them marvel at their youthful talents.” statement is rather naive. How specifically are Olympic athletes harmed by a boycott? Will they be barred from competing? Is the worry that a boycott could actually cause the games to be canceled? Weir alludes to harm done to families struggling to get their children into the games but doesn’t even outline how that harm would come to pass or what form it would take. Does the world owe Olympic athletes so much that we should stand back and let the IOC and its corporate sponsors stomp on us a bit every couple years?

  12. erichoug says

    Regardless of what you think of the Olympics and the IOC, the games have always been a great platform for protest. Think about Jesse Owens in Berlin at the 36 games or the black power salute at the 68 games.

    What I would like to see is every single athlete that marches into the stadium for the opening ceremonies wearing a rainbow flag pin or patch.

    Hard to ignore that.

  13. Francisco Bacopa says

    I say we don’t boycott, but have all medal winners wear rainbow jerseys at the awards ceremony.

  14. John Horstman says

    @8: Yeah, communism wasn’t actually the problem – authoritarianism and cronyism were, and they were around in the days of the Czars and continue now. Theoretical structures matter a whole lot less than particular implementations in reality.

  15. chilidog99 says

    So what would happen if the entire US team wore rainbow ribbons?

    Pro gay propaganda, right?

  16. says

    I really hope some athlete during the games is brave enough to openly defy this law and dare the Russians to arrest him/her. I agree with Ed. Putin would balk at creating an international incident at the Olympics, and hopefully the open defiance will give fuel to the pro-gay resistance in Russia.

    But even more so, I hope such open defiance doesn’t happen because countries that stand for equal rights boycott the whole event. If several major countries like America, France, Brazil, UK, etc. refuse to participate because of Russia’s regressive laws, that would hurt Russia even more. We’ve boycotted the Olympics because of Russia’s actions before, and I say we should do it again. I don’t buy the argument that it would only hurt the athletes. Yes, sadly, they would suffer from a boycott, but Russia’s standing in the international community, Putin’s image within his own country, and also the economic benefits Russia hopes to derive from the Olympics would all suffer a lot.

    Also, if we boycotted the Olympics over gay rights, it would really, really, REALLY piss off the anti-gay bigots right here in the USA, and I love to see them suffer.

  17. says

    “Even an authoritarian thug like Putin knows that it would be a PR disaster for his country.”

    I totally disagree. If some athlete makes a public statement or show of some kind in favor of gays, I have no doubt he/she will be arrested. On Putin’s orders. Then a day or 2 later, Putin will come to that jailed person’s rescue and have him released but immediately expelled from the country.

    Putin will make some speech to respect the laws of the nation but that in the spirit of good will and and some other gobbledegook, blah blah blah.

    Putin will be a hero in his country but the point will be made. Shut up.

    Putin is an expert showman and knows how to play the crowds. And he could care less about pleasing the rest of the world.

  18. aluchko says

    A boycott is an attack on the games and risks making Russians back the law for patriotic purposes (how would you feel about another country protesting one of your laws by boycotting the Olympics in your country).

    Plus it’s a pretty steep price for the athletes to pay.

    I think the best thing to do is not to boycott but to violate the law. If athletes and tourists are arrested it’s a scandal with heavy international disapproval and Russians will feel ashamed of the law. If they’re ignored than it delegitimizes the law and exposes Russian viewers to the reality of gay people.

  19. says

    The United Russia party dominates their politics, with only the Communist Party even putting up a semblance of opposition – and they’re all old fogeys from the days of the USSR.

    It’s even worse than that; last I checked they were openly Stalinist, pining for the worst years of the USSR.

  20. left0ver1under says

    Kaintukee Bob (#2) –

    After christianity split into catholic and protestant, both were brutal thug regimes that had dissidents. But when the dissidents on one side would run and hide on the other side, the other side would point to the dissident now living freely and thumb their noses at the other regime.

    Snowdon’s year of reprieve in Russia sounds very much the same, hiding behind one regime while the other wants to get their hands on him and murder him.

  21. Olav says

    Aluchko #21:

    A boycott is an attack on the games and risks making Russians back the law for patriotic purposes (how would you feel about another country protesting one of your laws by boycotting the Olympics in your country).

    Plus it’s a pretty steep price for the athletes to pay.

    I’m not yet entirely convinced that a boycott is a good idea either, but this concern for the athletes is not in itself a good argument against it. Unless you think the right of some people to play sports and games is more important than the right of other people to live free from discrimination and persecution.

    I think the best thing to do is not to boycott but to violate the law. If athletes and tourists are arrested it’s a scandal with heavy international disapproval and Russians will feel ashamed of the law. If they’re ignored than it delegitimizes the law and exposes Russian viewers to the reality of gay people.

    That would work, provided there were enough participants in these protests that they cannot be written off as “some small radical fringe group” without whom the festivities can easily continue.

    Realistically, I don’t think any athlete is going to risk their chance of participating by getting arrested for this. Not even if they might personally feel very strongly about the subject. To them, the “importance” of the Games (even if it’s only imaginary) logically trumps everything. That would be an argument why the decision needs to be made for them.

  22. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    Latin American athletes should stay away … the men are always hugging one another. And I don’t think the Russian cops could tell a heterosexual abrazo from a gay one.

  23. Donnie says

    I suspect that Russia will not arrest any gay athlete? The Russian federation is holding FIFA World Cup in 2018 and any scandal at the Olympics could easily turn the World Cup back to England or the United States. The U.S. has already stated that it can hold the World Cup with only 6 months notice, if Brazil falters. The Olympics are the Olympics but Putin will not do anything to jeopardize the World Cup. We are talking 1 billion viewers for the World Cup. Putin cannot afford any international incidents with the Olympics, in my opinion.

    Of course, this in no way helps the Russian youth, and the pogroms being executed against them.

  24. Donnie says

    My assistant track coach in College qualified for the 1980 Summer Olympics. 4 years of training and a lifetime of dreaming were dashed by Reagan and realpolitik. He said that the athletes were fuming about the Goodwill games. That was his one-and-only shot at participating in the 200 meter dash.

    Boycott watching the games. Go to Russia and support the youth there in protesting the law. Write, speak and donate time and money to NGOs in order to fight. Ask the athletes to stand up in solidarity. Pressure the IOC to include regulations guaranteeing Human Rights for all of its citizens in order to qualify for hosting the Olympics. There are lots of options to address the issue.

    Do not ask the U.S. government, or any government, to boycott the games. The losers will be the athletes – pawns in realpolitik.

  25. slchonda says

    Re Donnie @ #27

    Excuse me, that was James Earl fuckken Carter who proclaimed the boycott of the 1980 Olympics, not Ronnie the rat.

  26. sillose says

    an athlete will have a sad story about not completing their lifelong ambition to run in a race. heart wrenching. for the few people it effects-who i have little empathy for. no, im concerned with the thousands who know that it only takes three words out of their mouths to send them to prison: i love you. it only takes three words to lock them in a goddamn cage. the people who get told theyre less, who are pushed to the margins for the simple act of love, or wanting someone to warm themselves against on a cold night. those who live as shadows, lies, of half shades of themselves-because they know that if they dont, their careers their homes and the love of their families will vanish out from under them-even if they dont end up in a cage. but no, its the fucking athletes we should be thinking about. why, exactly, are athletes so fucking special? i will never understand this.

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