Tag Archives: Russia

Pride House Announces Olympic Same-Sex Hand Holding Initiative

14 Aug

Olympics Day 4 - Gymnastics - Artistic Today, Pride House – an international coalition of LGBT sport and human rights groups announced their Same-Sex Hand-Holding Initiative, a campaign that is part of the group’s response to the International Olympic Committee’s choice of Russia as host nation for the 2014 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

While the International LGBT community has been searching for a way to respond to Russia’s anti-gay laws including boycotts of Russian products and calls to boycott the Olympic games in Sochi altogether, Pride House has been focused on finding a safe way for Olympic participants and fans to respond while in Russia.

“The very first thing the members of the Pride House International coalition did was to ask our Russian counterparts for their leadership on our campaign,” said Lou Englefield, Director of Pride Sports UK and PHI coordinator. “Any response, no matter how well-meaning, would be inappropriate without the input of LGBT sportspeople in Russia”. Konstanin Yablotskiy from the Russian LGBT Sports Federation is part of Pride House International, and was instrumental in conceptualizing the Same-Sex Hand-Holding Initiative.

As Yablotskiy explained, “Long after the 2014 Olympics, we in Russia will continue to live under this horrible law. For a few weeks we have the opportunity to bring the attention of the world to the situation in Russia. The Same-Sex Hand-Holding Initiative enables everyone to get involved with a simple yet iconic gesture. We know from gestures like Usain Bolt’s lightning stance the impact of such images that are simple, replicable, and identifiable”.

The campaign is simple: Pride House International is calling on everyone present in Sochi – athletes, staff, media, officials, spectators, sponsors, vendors, and fans – to take every opportunity to hold hands with a person of the same sex.

copy-phi-sshhi-header-1015x276“There are extreme restrictions on the uniforms and other items worn by athletes at any Olympic Games. Flags, badges, or pins are not allowed without IOC approval, a near-impossibility, and wearing something as seemingly innocuous as pink socks or shoelaces is very difficult for athletes to do, and complex to organise for other participants and spectators,” said the Federation of Gay Games’ Les Johnson. “But everyone can hold hands with their neighbour. Indeed, raising your rivals’ hands in camaraderie is an image we see on every podium at every sporting event.”

Pride House International does urge anyone wanting to participate in the campaign to exercise caution. Hand-holding should happen only in public view with as many witnesses as possible, media and otherwise.

Same-sex hand-holding has an Olympic tradition with the organization: A Day in Hand hosted a same-sex hand-holding relay through London as part of London 2012′s Inspire cultural program.

Materials in support of this campaign (posters, t-shirts, pins, and web badges) will be available starting by early October on the Pride House International website at pridehouseinternational.org.

Other supporting actions for the SSHHI campaign will be announced soon, as will other actions for visibility of LGBT sport during the Sochi Games.

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FIFA Jumps on Olympic Russian Bandwagon

13 Aug

As we’ve been posting about here, the back and forth between the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Russia’s government has been dizzying.

As it stands currently, not much has changed. IOC is telling the public that there’s nothing to worry about and that Olympians and fans will not be subject to their anti-gay law, while the Russian government in no uncertain terms is saying quite the opposite. Yesterday, the IOC seemed to begin conceding the fact that gay and lesbian athletes will indeed not be protected by their status as Olympians and what’s more – they will be punished by IOC if they DARE speak out and tell someone they’re gay.

As we’ve pointed out here, it’s clear that these draconian laws and the IOC’s implied support of them puts gay and lesbian athletes at a clear disadvantage. How well can a person perform when they’re worried constantly about hiding who they are? As we’ve seen with athletes who have come out, they always perform better with that weight being lifted from their shoulders. Here is the IOC demanding of gay & lesbian athletes that they carry that extra weight they’d left behind.

Spanish football player Mario Gomez encourages gay athletes to come out of the closet.

German football player Mario Gomez encourages gay athletes to come out of the closet.

Today, Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) jumped on the very popular bandwagon of asking Russia to clarify their anti-gay laws. You see, FIFA’s World Cup is scheduled to take place in Russia in 2018. The chair of that event, Alexey Sorokin has been quoted defending Russia’s law:

“It is designed against active propaganda of homosexuality, not against homosexuality itself. That is a big difference…Would you like a World Cup where naked people are running around displaying their homosexuality? The answer to that is quite obvious.”

The explanation that we are just somehow confusing what the law is about is ridiculous. No one is being arrested in Russia for running around naked, displaying their homosexuality. They are being arrested for making films about gay people in Russia, marching in a pride parade, and Russian police stand by and watch when gay people are beaten and killed.

There’s more to the story here though. Last year, FIFA announced that the 2022 World Cup will be held in Qatar, which goes a good deal further in banning homosexuality. Any homosexual acts are considered illegal in the Gulf nation and is punishable with prison time. When FIFA President Sepp Blatter was asked about Qatar’s anti-gay laws, he replied that gay soccer fans could just “refrain from any sexual activities” while there.

You have to wonder why FIFA is attempting to go after Russia on their laws but excusing Qatar for their own? Perhaps with all the attention focused on the Olympics, they’re hoping to share a little of that spotlight themselves.

International Olympic Committee Disregards Olympic Charter to Support Russia’s Anti-Gay Laws

13 Aug

Following yesterday’s post about the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) decision to enforce Rule 50, I looked a little further into the Olympic Charter to see what it says.

imagesRule 50, which IOC officials said yesterday would be enforced should athletes choose to carry a rainbow flag or wear a rainbow pin, states that:

“No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”
This is a rule they admittedly only enforce selectively and would do so in accordance with anti-gay Russian law. Strangely enough in my research I can’t find any time in history where this rule has applied to religious athletes demonstrating their religion in the Olympic sphere despite it happening frequently.
What I did find were the “Fundamental Principles of Olympism.” These 7 fundamentals one would think might trump the 61 rules and by-laws of said rules. Among those are numbers 4 and 6, shared below:
67734. The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.
6. Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.

It would seem that in the interest of covering for Russia’s “Gay Propaganda” law, the IOC has made the decision to utterly disregard 2 of the 7 Fundamental Principles of Olympism.

The Olympic Charter can be read in it’s entirety here.

International Olympic Committee May Join Russia in Punishing Gay Athletes

12 Aug
Openly Gay Olympic New Zealand Speed Skater Blake Skjellerup

Openly Gay Olympic New Zealand Speed Skater Blake Skjellerup

Most of you know what’s been going on between the Stoli boycotts and statements from athletes around the world with regards to the Olympics and anti-gay, draconian Russian laws.

For those who don’t, the short version is this: earlier this year, Russia passed some horrifically anti-gay laws making it illegal to “promote” homosexuality. Apparently you can BE gay, you just can’t ever tell anyone about it for fear you’ll be reported and go to prison. These laws have given cover to Neo-Nazi groups and others to take the law into their own hands by beating and murdering any person they think doesn’t measure up to their standard of heterosexuality.

Many have called on the Olympics to make strong statements against these laws and some have even called them to move the 2103 Winter Olympics out of Sochi to a place more accepting of all athletes.

The International Olympic Committee began by assuring athletes and fans that they’d spoken to Russian authorities and that Sochi athletes and fans would be exempt from the law.

Not so fast, said Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, making it clear that athletes and fans must respect the host country’s bigoted law.

Playing a media game of ping-pong, it’s left Olympic participants without any actual information regarding the situation in Russia. The truth of the matter is that no matter what kinds of assurances are made, LGBT people are not welcome and not safe in Russia. The IOC can say whatever they want to, but it will not stop some thug in a bar from kidnapping, beating and potentially murdering someone they perceive as gay.

Today, instead of actually standing up for LGBT athletes, the IOC is essentially siding with Russia and now warning lesbian and gay athletes.

Under rule 50 of the IOC’s charter: ‘No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.’

Gay Star News had asked what the global Olympic chiefs thought about plans for athletes to wear rainbow pins or hold hands during the opening and closing ceremonies.

They also asked if the IOC would provide a safe space – or Pride House – for LGBT athletes, spectators, dignitaries and others during the games to celebrate gay sport and community, as has been done in previous years.

But their spokeswoman told us: ‘Regarding your suggestions, the IOC has a clear rule laid out in the Olympic Charter (Rule 50) which states that the venues of the Olympic Games are not a place for proactive political or religious demonstration.

‘This rule has been in place for many years and applied when necessary.’

With this report, the IOC has made it clear that they have a double standard when it comes to accepting all athletes. The Pride House in Vancouver was historic in that it provided a safe space for LGBT athletes from around the world. The IOC clearly didn’t see this as a violation of Rule 50 a few years ago, but it seems as though athletes must now be forced to step back into the closet for the 2013 Sochi Olympics.

Despite confusing messages from the IOC, today Russia’s Interior Ministry has unequivocally stated that they will be enforcing their anti-gay law during the 2013 Sochi Olympic games.

Either way, if the Olympics remain in Sochi, LGBT athletes are automatically at a disadvantage. It’s really hard to perform to one’s full capabilities when one is spending part or most of their day in actual fear for their lives.

Out gay New Zealand speedskater Blake Skjellerup, told USA TODAY:

“I don’t want to have to tone myself down about who I am,” Skjellerup said. “That wasn’t very fun and there’s no way I’m going back in the closet. I just want to be myself and I hate to think that being myself would get me in trouble.”

I don’t think you’ll find a single athlete out there who’d disagree with the notion that you perform better when you don’t have to hide who you are. In fact, many said as much when basketball player Jason Collins came out last year.

At this point, I can’t imagine there is anything IOC can say to actually ensure the safety of their participants or fans – whether it be from the actual Russian government or vigilantes who are rarely if ever prosecuted for their crimes against LGBT people. While boycotts and news stories have been effective at getting the word out about the atrocities being carried out against LGBT people, none of this will actually make anyone safer in Russia. And none of it will stop LGBT athletes from constantly having to look over their shoulder as they compete for Olympic gold.

Gay as a Football Bat: Why Does FIFA Hate Us?

3 Dec

Many of us spent several days trying to escape the FIFA-fever that came over the world this past summer as the World Cup was being fought for. Many of us also spent several hours, crowded into hot, sweaty bars, watching intently as the hot, sweaty players kicked and head-butted the ball across the field. It was an event that was watched by millions of gay and straight people alike.

Yesterday, we heard the news that FIFA announced the location of the 2022 World Cup would be Qatar, a Middle Eastern country with 1.7 million people (which is smaller than the state of Connecticut). While normally, the location of a World Cup series would not be of much interest to Talk About Equality, there’s something quite troubling about this choice.

You see, in Qatar it is illegal to be gay (or at least to “commit acts of homosexuality”). By choosing Qatar to host the games, FIFA has stated quite plainly that it does not care about football’s gay fans (or players).

Just a few days after German footballer Mario Gomez urged gay players to come out, FIFA is telling its players quite the opposite.

Russia was chosen to host the 2018 games. And though Russia does not have the same laws banning homosexuality that Qatar does, one must note that Russia’s capital Moscow has banned gay pride marches and parades for years. They even went so far as to expell the organizer of the gay pride parade out of Russia.

German Footballer Mario Gomez Urges Gay Players to Come Out of the Closet

What would happen if gay players, their allies, their fans, the companies that sponsor the teams were to boycott the games due to the bigoted laws on gays these countries hold? The world is changing pretty quickly, and hell 2018 and 2022 are 8 and 12 years away – might there be an opportunity here to create some real change?