Keeping Score

Is Being Gay Protected Inside Sochi’s New Olympics Protest Zones?

The International Olympic Committee says Russia will set up designated areas for demonstrators

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The International Olympic Committee has announced that Russia will set up public protest zones in Sochi during the upcoming Winter Olympics, though the exact size and location of these zones are still to be determined.

The plan gives opponents of Russia’s human rights record — especially the country’s anti-gay law which bans the promotion of “nontraditional sexual relations” in the presence of minors — a designated and supposedly safe place to voice their displeasure. Still, some gay-rights advocates aren’t exactly cheering.

One positive: this move is a reversal of sorts. In August, Vladimir Putin signed a decree banning “gatherings, rallies, demonstrations, marches and pickets” for 2 1/2 months around the Olympics and Paralympics. “Whether or not, at the end of the day, the protest zones are a good idea – the fact that they’re having to reverse course says that public pressure is working,” says Wes Adams, chief operating officer of All Out, an LGBT-rights group. “And also that the IOC has leverage with the Russian government.”

But it’s not clear that demonstrators in these zones will be able to promote “nontraditional sexual relations.” Will protestors be allowed to wave rainbow flags? Can same-sex couples kiss or hold hands? “We haven’t gotten more information from the IOC about what you can do in these protest zones or not,” says Adams. The IOC did not return a request for clarification, though IOC president Thomas Bach said during a news conference Tuesday that “everybody can express his or her free opinion.”

Hudson Taylor, founder and executive director of Athlete Ally — nonprofit that promotes respect and acceptance of LGBT people, both inside and outside the sports world — is concerned about the safety of any protestors. “I think people will be permitted to support to LGTB community within protest zones,” says Taylor. “But I have no confidence that those same people are going to be protected after they leave the protest zones.” As the Associated Press reports:

At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where China came under scrutiny for its human rights record and policy on Tibet, officially sanctioned protest zones were located miles from venues and were unused.

Beijing protesters had to apply for permission to hold demonstrations. Applications had to specify the protest subject and list those demonstrators involved. Chinese officials said almost 200 applications were received but most were withdrawn or rejected.

Protests near Beijing venues were quickly quelled, and activists detained and deported.

“Are the protest zones going to make people a target by crowding them all in one spot?” says Adams. “We’ve seen an incredible increase in violence in Russia over the last six months since the passage of the anti-gay law. That’s certainly not going to go away any time soon.”

Taylor plans on being in Sochi. Will he head to one of the protest zones? “I don’t want to say anything that is going to hurt my ability to get to Sochi,” Taylor says. “So I’ll just be there to quietly observe and support the games.” He’s deadpanning. “No, there’s certainly a cost-benefit analysis I’m looking at, in terms of, you know, I think it’s very important that we take this as an opportunity to express our real disdain of these Russian propaganda laws,” says Taylor. “But also, to do so without exposing ourselves to a great deal of risk or harm. Right now, the risk outweighs the reward. That’s not to say there won’t be other opportunities at or during the games to talk about Olympic values, and why we feel that sport does not discriminate.”

12 comments
T5LLC
T5LLC

The www.Principle6.org campaign, inspired by the values of the Olympic charter, was conceived of and launched as a way for athletes, spectators, and global supporters to celebrate the Olympic principle of non-discrimination. According the Frank Bruni, Principle 6 offers an, "epigrammatic protest of Russia’s laws that doesn’t include the word “gay” or any of the conventional symbols of the gay rights movement." The campaign emphasizes the importance of upholding the principles and values of the Olympic movement, which are intended to assure that the platform of Olympic sport is one that engenders inclusion and non-discrimination.

Dozens of Olympic and professional athletes have joined the campaign, and it is inspiring to see leaders in the athletic community around the world stand up for LGBT equality.

mary.waterton
mary.waterton

Russia is taking a lesson from America. Pro-lifers who protest abortion clinics are restricted to "protest zones". Christians protesting "gay pride parades" are restricted to "protest zones". Tea Party patriots protesting Obama's socialism are restricted to "protest zones". Liberals in America are allowed to protest anytime anywhere anyway they want ... not so with conservatives.


"Protest zones" located thousands of feet from the event are a liberal democrat creation. So stop complaining when other nations use it in a way you don't like. It smacks of hypocrisy.

kyzaadrao
kyzaadrao

It shouldn't be allowed anywhere at the Olympics. It's not an excuse for activists of any sort. It's a time when we come together and engage in sports as a unifying factor. Nothing more, nothing less. Tired of activists thinking the whole world is their stage. I don't hate you, I'm not a bigot, but jeez ... buy your own stage.

Hotpuppy
Hotpuppy

The solution is simple; BOYCOTT SOCHI!  Show Russia that it can be an interolerant miserable place, but we don't have to spend money there, visit, or support companies that underwrite the IOC's decision to support interolerance and hate.

HariharanHaran
HariharanHaran

Remember how Indian supreme court retain its power by giving a correct verdict that homosexuality is un natural that  American courts could not. Homosexuality is a mental disorder it must not be allowed to grow up because, it shows the weak part of a society. The brain disorder might be cleared with long counselling and medicine.This dis order mostly starts with mental stress either by inherent or by present living circumstance. 

Hotpuppy
Hotpuppy

@kyzaadrao I agree - we should just boycott it instead.  That's the only way to send a clear message to the IOC that holding the games in a place that promotes hate is a NO GO.  It doesn't matter if the hate is directed at gays, women, minorities, or people who are not caucasian.  Hate is not something we should promote.  

BalalaikinBear
BalalaikinBear

Why you don't  go to Saudi Arabia (by the way the U.S. ally in NATO) and ' kiss each other, hold hands and  waving rainbow flags'?



Hotpuppy
Hotpuppy

@HariharanHaran Ignorance is the only true mental disorder that can be cleared by education and counseling.  Being gay or lesbian is as natural as being male or female.  The solution to gay marriage is very simple... if you don't like it, don't get one.  The same thing applies to gay sex.  If you do not like it, do not engage in it.  To advocate the control of others because you do not like their behavior is the same as advocating that some people are less intelligent on the basis of their skin color.  We all know how that turned out in history and most of us would agree that it is an ignorant view to support racism.

jasperbad1
jasperbad1

@Hotpuppy that smacks of hypocrisy. aren't you also advocating the control of others because you do not like people who do not like homos? 


Free expression works both ways. 


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