Russian athlete defends anti-gay laws
RUSSIA’S anti-gay laws are, clearly, bloody preposterous. Quite why Putin & Co would be so worried about who-fancies-who is beyond any logic or reason. Making the whole thing weirder and worse is that small matter of the Sochi Winter Olympics, a tournament steeped in corporate bon homie and a woolly notion of oneness and togetherness.
It isn’t just about running or throwing things further than everyone else, apparently. The Olympics has gone from athletes showing off to some kind of peace event where everyone is treated equally and colour, creed and everything else, melts into one harmonious pot of congratulatory gooeyness.
And of course, when an Olympics works, you can totally fall right into it and the positive feeling can last for months.
However, Russia’s ideas about gays are at odds with everything the sporting event stands for and now, the Russians athletes are towing the party line, either through choice or fear.
Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva has defended her country’s anti-gay law and slated athletes for showing solidarity for homosexuals.
“If we allow to promote and do all this stuff on the street, we are afraid about our nation because we consider ourselves like normal, standard people. We just live with boys with woman, woman with boys. Everything must be fine. It comes from history. We never had any problems, these problems in Russia, and we don’t want to have any in the future.”
She obviously doesn’t know about Tchaikovsky, one of the most famous Russians, then.
And she’s incurred the wrath of American 800m runner Nick Symmonds, who dedicated his World Championship medal “to my gay and lesbian friends back home”.
Responding to Isinbayeva’s comments, Symmonds said:
“It blows my mind that a young, well-travelled, well-educated woman would be so behind the times. She said ‘normal, standard people’ in Russia? Guess what – a lot of these people with Russian citizenship are normal, standard homosexuals. They deserve rights too.”
Two Swedish athletes, Emma Green Tregaro and Moa Hjelmer, both painted their nails in rainbow colours in a show of solidarity.
The Swedish athletes didn’t impress Isinbayeva:
“It’s unrespectful to our country. It’s unrespectful to our citizens because we are Russians. Maybe we are different from European people and other people from different lands. We have our home and everyone has to respect [it]. When we arrive to different countries, we try to follow their rules.“
So what happens now? Would withdrawing from the competition be better or should athletes attend and protest? Will we see a podium moment akin to Mexico ’68?
Ironically enough, Russia themselves boycotted the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, inventing The Friendship Games with a host of other Eastern Bloc countries (more on that here). Should all the countries opposing Russia’s laws boycott Sochi in favour of an event that doesn’t discriminate?
As Isinbayeva is set to be the ‘mayor’ of the Olympic village, things could get very tense and she could well be faced with problems that extend way beyond her performance.