Gay athletes at the Sochi Winter Games

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Russia’s President Vladimir Putin declaration not long ago in an attempt to calm concerns that gay athletes will have nothing to fear is an empty promise.

The Sochi Winter Games have been under scrutiny by many, but the Olympic Committee has indicated they will not get involved in Russia’s anti-homosexuality law, seemingly supporting discriminatory and homophobic sentiment in that country. I suppose they also truly believe Putin’s statement to the press last month that in part says, “Athletes will not be arrested because of sexual orientation.”

Countries such as Canada, the United States and Britain have been vocal about Russia’s stance on human rights issues, in this case the LGBT community. However, words alone do not alter a Russian leader’s mind.

I question the sincerity of other leaders if sanctions are not on the agenda against countries that do not adhere to human rights. Here we are dealing with an authoritarian leader who cares less about human rights and therefore Putin will continue with any measures he deems fit to rule his nation with an iron fist. The LGBT members of his citizenry must endure hardships that we cannot even imagine in Canada.

The questions remain: 1, Can we trust Putin not to arrest gay athletes if they walk down a street in Moscow holding hands like any other couple? 2, Will police authorities intervene if foreign gay athletes, or visitors to the games, are attacked? 3, In case Putin retracts his present stance, will the Olympic Committee react negatively, or ignore the situation in the hopes it will not interfere with the games? Thomas Bach, the head of the committee, has praised Putin for making the statement that protection is in place.

Any government that denounces equal rights for the LGBT population deserves sanctions and a global response of determined solidarity. Equality for all is a human right. We are born with so many differences and that must be respected. Unfortunately, Putin is one world leader who does not respect those differences.

I for one will boycott the games, along with countless others, thereby standing up for human rights. At least one Canadian athlete is refusing to take part in the games in protest of Russia’s horrific laws.The Olympic Committee remains silent! Comments and information:


Gerard Veldhoven is a longtime activist for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. His column appears Wednesdays in The News.

Organizations: Olympic Committee

Geographic location: Russia, Sochi, Canada United States Britain Moscow

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