In the months leading up to the Sochi Winter Olympic games, there have been natural obstacles for the Olympic city such as the torrential downpour that caused flooding and landslides. The more well known issue, however, is the law passed in Russia forbidding gay propaganda.
The Russian government claims to be tolerant of all viewpoints and sexual orientations. However, as the government and President Putin expressed through this law, these viewpoints are not to be expressed in the general public. In the Olympic city itself, Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov expressed the city's tolerance of all views but that these views are not to be “forced” onto the greater public. This is not accepting difference; it is forcing people to hide who they really are.
Not only is this law unfair and unjust but it was passed just months before the International Olympic Games committee inspected Sochi which means it will be enforced during the games. There was the thought that Sochi would not pass the final IOC inspection. The IOC claimed that Russia was not violating any Olympic anti-discrimination laws. It appears that the IOC is more afraid of standing up to the Russian government.
While the IOC claims that the ban against gay propoganda is not violating any laws, many gay and lesbian Olympic athletes are afraid of discrimination at the Olympics. For one, Russian officials rejected an application for a Pride House which was a part of the London Olympics. The passage of this law is infringes upon the Olympic spirit and goes against the celebration of world differences. This law will also affect how journalists and broadcasting stations cover the game. It is interesting that NBC has decided to stream the Games live, excluding the opening ceremonies. I hope that at least those reporting will not let this law stop them from true journalistic credibility.
While President Obama did not boycott the Olympics, he did select openly gay athletes for the U.S. delegation. In the opening ceremonies, tennis champion Billie Jean King will be the U.S. delegate and women’s ice hockey Olympian Catlin Cahow will represent the U.S in the closing ceremonies. Given that U.S. and Russian relations have been shaky over the past year, it is not surprising that Obama chose not to boycott the Olympics. Obama's choices also raise the question of whether the delegates were chosen as a protest against the law or in the scheme of the larger political relationship between the U.S. and Russia.
With the Olympic Games less the month away, anticipation and anxiety is mounting. One thing is certain: the effect of this law and the 2014 Games will be on the world’s radar.
Sources: Huffington Post: “Russia Says No To Olympic Pride House”, New York Post: Obama picks openly gay athletes for U.S. Olympic delegation, Washington Post: Russia anti-gay law casts a shadow over Sochi’s 2014 Olympics