Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.
Saturday, October 22, 2016

Russia Unperturbed By Olympic Boycott Threat

Russia Unperturbed By Olympic Boycott Threat

MOSCOW (AFP) – Russia on Friday said it was unperturbed by threats of an Olympic boycott over a controversial law banning “homosexual propoganda”, despite wide-ranging criticism of the legislation from athletes to U.S. President Barack Obama.

President Vladimir Putin passed the law in June as part of a wider political crackdown but it has cast a shadow over the build-up to the world athletics championships which start in Moscow this weekend and next year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi over claims it infringes fundamental rights.

The country’s sports minister Vitaly Mutko on Thursday stoked the issue further by saying athletes, activists and the international community should “calm down”.

But he said on Friday that the clamour for athletes to stay away was only “light pressure”, adding: “We should not be afraid of an Olympic Games boycott.

“Russia must understand that it is stronger, no matter how much someone may dislike this fact,” he was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

“As for that law, it is not aimed at restricting the rights of citizens, irrespective of their nationality, faith or any other inclinations.

“This law is aimed at banning propaganda for minors. No-one is going to infringe on anyone’s rights.”

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) meanwhile reaffirmed its commitment to a discrimination-free Olympics in the Black Sea resort next February.

But it said it was unable to make a decision about measures to take because of a lack of clarity about the law, which punishes the dissemination of information about homosexuality to minors but which activists say can be used for a broad crackdown against gays.

IOC president Jacques Rogge told a news conference in Moscow, where the athletics world championships begin on Saturday, that without the full details he could not comment on the law.

Yet he made it clear that the rules within the Olympic Charter had to be respected.

“We have to abide by the Olympic charter, the charter is very clear,” said the 71-year-old Belgian, who steps down from his post in September.

“Sport is a human right and should be available to all regardless of race, sex, sexual orientation.”

Assurances had been received from organisers of the Sochi Games but the IOC was seeking clarity over the legislation, he added.

“It is more a translation issue not about fundamentals,” he said.

As to whether the IOC would discipline athletes who made protests during the Games, Rogge said that, too, was not clear.

“We would treat every case independently,” he added.

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2013 The National Memo
  • Vazir Mukhtar

    Having lived and worked in Russia, I can say that anti-LGBT attitudes are widespread among much of the Russian population, as well as in the Russian Orthodox Church and the government.

    Readers surely must know that Mr Putin and the Duma are playing to the home audience as well as discouraging pro-LGBT demonstrations by citizens of the RF and visiting competitors and spectators.

    Two factors are at play here. (1) Russians in the main expect visitors to obey the laws, no matter how obnoxious, senseless, biased, etc. they may seem. Thus the prohibition against carrying signs or banners with LGBT messages and propagandizing. (2) Russians in the main are a hospitable people and are deeply offended when “guests” fail to behave according to their norms and customs.

    In Japan when one is handed a business card, (s-)he is to take it with both hands, look the presenter in the eyes, and then put the card away. In Austria one does not cross the street against the light no matter that there is no traffic. In Russia one stands during divine liturgy unless doing so is physically impossible.

    I do not believe that the militia will harass LGBTs and their sympathizers who behave modestly and do not carry posters or unfurl banners. I don’t expect law enforcement personnel to make bed checks.

    It was at the 1936 Olympics that Jesse Owens scored his triumph. People in the street might not have suspected that Hitler was preparing for war or that two years later there would be a Kristallnacht. Western governments have a far better understanding of the Russian Federation than did their predecessors of Hitler’s Germany.

    So, boycott the Olympic games an individual if you choose, but don’t ask the US government to boycott them, if only for the sake of our athletes who’ve trained so hard and are eager to show their prowess.

  • silence dogood

    When is Obama going to speak out against the treatment of LGBT’s and women in Muslim countries. When will the NM have the guts to do an article on the subject. Please reply.

    • Vazir Mukhtar

      I’ll join you in asking NM to have a well-researched, well-written piece or two on the predicament of LGBTs and women in Muslim countries.

      As to the president speaking out on the issue, I wouldn’t hold my breath. Not that he won’t; it’s just that I don’t think we’ll know until it’s leaked that he will.

  • Vazir Mukhtar

    Most of those advocating a boycott of Russian vodka probably can’t name two brands of Russian-produced vodka. Hint: Stolichnaya is produced in Latvia.