“We just say that it is your business, it’s your life,” Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov, speaking on Russia’s attitude toward LGBT lifestyles, told the BBC on January 27. “But it’s not accepted here in the Caucasus where we live. We do not have [gay people] in our city.”
Welcome to the Sochi Winter Olympics!
In fact, the mayor is lying, and he knows it. While same-sex activity between consenting adults in Russia was decriminalized in 1993, there are no laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. And on June 11, 2013, the Russian Parliament (in a 436-0 vote) passed a new law banning “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations.” According to the state-run All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion, almost 90 percent of Russians support the law that prohibits gay pride parades, publicly supporting LGBT rights or equating gay and heterosexual marriages.
The more Russian authorities try to minimize Russia’s intolerant stance on LGBT lifestyles, the more they expose themselves as Middle Age bigots.
“People can feel free and at ease, but please leave the children in peace,” said Russian president Vladimir Putin in January, the latest of many similar statements in the last few months.
Not to be a party pooper but, as if this wasn’t bad enough, Russia’s rampant homophobia is only a fraction of the public image problems the games face—terrorism is the other one.
On a video message last July, Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov—often referred to as “Russia’s bin Laden”—threatened attacks on civilians and called the Sochi Olympics “satanic dances on the bones of our ancestors.” Between October and December, three suicide bombings in Volgograd (430 miles from Sochi) killed more than 40 and injured more than 100. The Russian government has set up unprecedented security measures for the Sochi Olympics that include drone surveillance, a much larger protected area surrounding the Olympic Village and sonar technology to detect enemy submarines. A former Los Angeles and Dallas police chief with Olympic experience thinks this is more than just government hysteria.
“In my opinion, it’s not a matter of whether there will be some incident, it’s just a matter of how bad it’s going to be,” Bill Rathburn, in charge of security at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics, told Yahoo News on January 16. “To my knowledge, this is the only Olympics that has had an announced, credible threat well prior to the games.”
On January 24, the U.S. State Department released a travel alert for the approximate 10,000 Americans traveling to the games, and Rathburn agrees with every line in it.
“I would get into the heart of the security perimeter as quickly as possible,” said Rathburn, “avoid public transportation and stay within the secured venues.”
In spite of the controversy and security concerns, NBC plans to begin coverage on prime time beginning February 6, a day before the opening ceremonies.
Feb 6-Feb 23
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