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Gay rights encroach upon Sochi Olympics 2014

Senior Reporter

Published: Monday, February 10, 2014

Updated: Tuesday, February 11, 2014 00:02


Associated Press

) Gay rights activist Robert Smith (right) spends time in Mayak Cabaret, Sochi, Russia’s most popular gay club. Russia passed legislation last year banning “non-traditional sexual relations” propaganda, which the country said is for the benefit of children.


Lillie Muyskens | The Houstonian

A law restricting gay rights recently adopted by Russia, the host-country of the XXII Winter Olympic Games, has created global controversy among athletes and audiences alike.

Despite strict rules in place to restrict athletes from making political statements, many activists have come forward both in the games and around the world both in defense and in opposition of gay rights.  

Specifically, gay rights is an issue at the game because of a Russian law adopted last year banning “the propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations,” which according to CBS News, has been widely viewed as an attack on gay rights.

Regardless of claims made by Russian authorities to insist the law was made to protect children, four gay activists in St. Petersburg and 10 in Moscow were arrested by Russian police coincidentally on the opening day of the Sochi Olympics. In fact, in an interview last month, the mayor of Sochi even claimed that there were “no gays in Sochi.”

However, one cabaret in Sochi is a safe-haven for gay Olympic athletes, attendees and Russian citizens. Mayak Cabaret, both a cabaret and a nightclub, is a popular venue for dancing, drinking and their specialty, drag shows.

In reply to the comment made by Sochi’s mayor, one of Mayak’s regulars Ozyorny wrote in a letter to the mayor that was published in Russian media, “Nice to meet you, I am one of them.”

Tennis champion Billie Jean King, figure skater Brian Boitano and speed skater Caitlin Cahow are all openly-gay athletes President Barack Obama chose as delegates to send to the Olympic Games to represent the United States. King decided last minute not to go due to an illness in her family.

“The U.S. Delegation to the Olympic Games represents the diversity that is the United States,” Obama said in a statement. “All our delegation members are distinguished by their accomplishments in government service, civic activism and sports. We are proud of each and every one of them and think they will serve as great ambassadors of the United States to the Olympic Games.”

Although the 1980 Summer Olympic Games were held in Moscow – the U.S. boycotted – this is the first time the Russian Federation has hosted the Winter Olympics. Coincidentally, Russia won the first gold medal of the games in team figure skating, one of the 12 new events added to the winter games this year.

In addition, this is also the first year women will be allowed to compete in the long-jump.

Austrian Daniela Iraschko-Stolz, one of the ski jumpers who is openly gay, said she thinks protesting the Russian law banning homosexual propaganda during the Olympics isn’t worth it.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea to make protests here, no one cares,” Iraschko-Stolz said in an interview with the Associated Press. “I know Russia will go and make the right steps in the future and we should give them time. I am here as a sportswoman. I always say I’m together with my woman now and don’t have any problems, not in Russia or with the Austrian federation. Ten years ago it was different.”

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