The Furore over Rainbows in Sochi

During the lead up to the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, there was a lot of community, media and social media chatter about how overtly anti-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans*) the Russian government is.

It all began in 2013, when “President Vladimir Putin signed a law at the end of June prohibiting the promotion of nontraditional sexual relationships to minors. The law has been interpreted as banning gay pride parades – children might see them – and preventing any discussion of homosexuality among teenagers”, according to the Washington Post September 2013 article titled Russia anti-gay law casts a shadow over Sochi’s 2014 Olympics.

There have been ongoing protests against the Russian anti-gay laws in the lead up to the Sochi games.  I even remember suggestions to boycott the games, for example an article The Guardian said, “This prompted calls for a boycott of the Games from some, including the actor Stephen Fry, and led others to condemn the new laws.”  Although, I’m not really sure how a boycott would work.

And when the games were officially opened Google was one organisation that made their feelings clear with their rainbow coloured Google doodle.  This was also reported on by the Guardian in their article: Rainbow Google doodle links to Olympic charter as Sochi kicks off.

So now that the 2014 Winter Olympics are in full swing, the biggest statements are coming from the athletes and the countries supporting them. When Ireen Wüst, Dutch speedskater, won a gold medal, media all over the world made it known that she was “the first openly gay athlete to win a medal at the Sochi Games.”  A simple Google search for Ireen Wüst shows just how much talk that generated.

On the other end of the scale, Austrian ski jumper Daniela Iraschko-Stolz also told a reporter that she feels safe, and that any anti-gayness in Sochi has been exaggerated.

In contrast to the negativity and protests, some brands and organisations around the world have turned to humour to denounce the anti-gay laws. Here are two of my favourites:

The Norwegian Olympics advert for Norwegian sporting goods chain XXL.

The Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion TV Commercial.

From my perspective the 2014 Winter Olympics has not only brought athletes together, but the global Rainbow community and their allies have been united in one voice.  Not only seeking acceptance, but also collectively stating that’s it’s okay to be gay (or any other unique sexuality) and that all people deserve to live free from laws that discriminate against any particular group.

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