Russians using old Soviet tactics to enforce new anti-gay law

The Olympics are supposed to be a time to celebrate athletic excellence. Nations competing in the spirit of sportsmanship, acceptance and world unity. But, with the Sochi 2014 games on the horizon, Russia is already projecting a divisive tone. We are seeing the old iron curtain using intimidation tactics as the Sochi games approach.

A recent law passed by the Russian government criminalizes public displays of support for gays and lesbians. The anti-gay laws were adopted in June of this year. IOC President Jacques Rogge says he was given assurances by Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko that the law banning “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” WOULD NOT be applied to visitors attending the Feb. 7-23 winter games in Sochi. It appears the Russians are applying old Soviet tactics as they are now backing off of that stance. This “revision” in policy is troubling for the IOC.


Rogge said on Friday he is, once again, seeking assurances from the Russians that athletes, and their families and friends will be safe from this Russian law. He says clarifications are needed so the Russians can uphold the conditions and practices contractually demanded of Olympic host nations.

On Monday Russia’s Interior Minister, who controls the police force, said that Russia will enforce its new anti-gay/anti-trans law during the 2014 Sochi Olympics. He said Russia will arrest any Olympic athlete and guests who run afoul of the law. The law is murky but by definition if an athlete is appears in public with their same-sex spouse they would be arrested. According to an article written by John Aravosis in the American Blog, “this means if an NBC reporter interviews an athlete, who does or says something “perceived” as pro-gay-for example mentioning their spouse or appearing in their home with that spouse during footage—that athlete will be jailed.

Mutko has said the law prohibits anything that is “pro-gay.” Well, who determines what is pro-gay? Since there is no specific definitions of pro-gay behavior in the law who will be the governing body determining such transgressions in the eyes of the Russians ?


This has turned into a huge mess for the IOC. They granted the games to Sochi years ago when such a draconian law was not on the books. Now that it is, it threatens the freedoms of every athlete that attends these Olympic games. This doesn’t just threaten gays, bi-sexuals and transgendered athletes. This is a law that infringes on the freedoms of expression that Americans and many countries around the world hold dear.

The Russians are acting like the old Soviet guard. Unilateral implementation of restrictive laws with an expectation that their supreme dominance will be respected and adhered to. This is heavy-handed Soviet thuggery at its worst. The threat is as good as imprisonment. They are  limiting expression in what has customarily been an event devoid of such restrictions.

It is clearly too late to move the games, although I get the feeling Rogge and the IOC would love to do just that. This is back-room treachery that would make Breshnev proud and now the IOC is scrambling, trying to get assurances that athletes, friends, family and fans will not be jailed because of their sexual orientation. Let’s make this clear, this isn’t a law that just outlaws gay-pride parades. This is a law, according to the Russians, that allows their police force to determine what is gay behavior. It allows their force to arrest people for what they “perceive” as gay behavior. It does this without any clear guidance. In essence, the law is by definition of  “broad” in scope.

The 2014 Sochi games are destined to turn into complete chaos. The Russians heavy-handedness regarding the new law, juxtiposed against freedom loving athletes and countries who don’t want to experience the old “hammer and sickle” during their most hallowed athletic moment. I fully expect athletes to march into the opening ceremonies with rainbow flags and pro-gay messages. If this happens, what do the Russians do? Do they storm the ceremony? Do they arrest athletes and hold them until their events and then jail them again? A mess I tell you, a mess.

Politically the United States and the Russians are already on shaky ground after Edward Snowden was granted asylum. But, it’s not only the United States, Great Britain, Germany and France have all chimed in saying a boycott isn’t the answer and it wouldn’t be fair to the athletes that have trained so hard. I certainly agree. Avoiding the controversy is not making a statement. But, for the competing nations to lay down and simply allow the Russians to run rough-shod over human rights and freedoms of expression isn’t the answer either.

Russia is slowly taking on that old Soviet look. Should it surprise us with an old KGB agent running the show ?


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