February 11, 2014

By Taylor Nichols

Photo by Shaylee Vigil
Photo by Shaylee Vigil

The 2014 Sochi Olympics have generated controversy and resulted in a flood of criticism aimed at the Russian government.

From the indiscriminant killing of stray dogs all over the city to the unjustifiably expensive preparations Russia made for the games, many of which are still in progress, media and social networking sites have brought to light a variety of issues surrounding the event.

The Olympic Games had the potential to put the country in a more positive light to the rest of the world, but so far it has provided a flux of outlandish issues, some humorous and some alarming.

One of the most important issues surrounding the Sochi Olympics is the Russian government’s extreme anti-gay views and laws. Earlier this year President Vladimir Putin enacted a variety of laws prohibiting any public activities related to gay rights, including parades and other events, public displays of homosexuality, speaking out in defense of gay rights, and essentially anything in promotion of or supporting same-sex relationships.

Putin used children to promote this legislation, associating homosexuality with pedophilia and suggesting he enacted these laws as a way to protect youth from exposure to “nontraditional sexual relations.”

Putin even stated that members of the gay community coming to Sochi for the games would be safe as long as they “leave kids alone,” and Sochi’s mayor said his city didn’t have any gay citizens.

These abhorrent legislative actions brought on a huge range of reactions internationally as well as a wave of LGBT support from communities all over the world.

While the Russian government’s preposterous legislative actions are unacceptable and have caused more hate crimes in an already homophobic environment, the heightened controversy has actually generated more support for gay rights worldwide.

The British government provided funding to pro-LGBT protest groups in Russia, and Chevrolet aired a commercial during the Olympics showing a same-sex marriage and a gay male couple with their son and daughter. The Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion released a video saying “the games have always been a little gay. Let’s fight to keep them that way.”

Norwegian singer-songwriter Annie Melody also made a music video in collaboration with artist Bjarne Melgaard called “Russian Kiss,” featuring a song speaking out against the legislation as well as four and a half minutes of same-sex couples kissing.

Some political figures and world leaders, including Barack Obama, chose not to attend the Olympic Games, and they were joined by hundreds of others in protest.

Pro-LGBT messages also found their way into the games. Russian music duo t.A.T.u., who have long been known for pretending to be lesbians as part of their stage personas, performed at the opening ceremonies, although it was not broadcasted internationally. Furthermore, six of the Olympians competing this year are openly gay.

The overwhelming amount of LGBT support brought on by Putin’s blatant homophobic attitude is something to be celebrated. It shows that while some people are stuck in the past and cling to their outdated and callous views, we as a society are undeniably on our way to more positive and open-minded practices. 

The Olympic Games are composed of international athletes with an international culture—tolerance and acceptance are fundamental elements of any diplomatic exchange, and much of the world’s response to Putin’s stance on LGBT individuals is in the spirit of a successful celebration of diversity.

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