During the World Outgames 2013 in Antwerp, Belgium, several Russian athletes posed for Adam Bouska’s popular NOH8 campaign as a bold statement for Russia’s LGBT community.
The mission statement of the World Outgames is to “bring together LGBT athletes from around the world in unprecedented numbers for a celebration of sport, culture and human rights. In the spirit of true inclusiveness, the World OutGames are open to all, regardless of sexual orientation,” as stated on the organization’s Facebook page.
The athletes hope to bring awareness around Russia’s anti-LGBT laws which ban “homosexual propaganda” as well as foreign LGBT couples from adopting Russian orphans and the planning of Pride parades. Individuals who attempt to break these laws may face a fee of $156 and media organizations risk being charged with a $31,000 penalty. These laws conflict with the international Winter Olympics, which Russia is hosting in February.
According to Putin, the anti-LGBT laws will affect the Olympic Charter despite the fact that they go against the Charter’s human dignity provisions.
On October 7, the International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach assured LGBT advocacy groups, All Out and Athlete Ally, that the Olympics “will be free of any form of discrimination” as the IOC “will do everything it can,” as stated in a press release.
“Our task at the IOC is to ensure that the charter is fully applied at the Olympic games and is fully accepted at all venues for all participants from athletes and officials to media and spectators,” Bach wrote. “The IOC cannot hope to influence national legislation outside the scope of the games and has to respect the law of each host country. What we do know is that the games, the Olympic athletes and, above all, the Olympic Village can be a powerful symbol that sets an example for peaceful co-existence and mutual respect. This is what we are striving for at each edition of the games.”
All Out was not satisfied with the IOC’s response.
“Bach should encourage Olympians in Sochi to speak out against discrimination faced by gay athletes and citizens in Russia, because that’s what the Olympic charter says is right,” All Out executive director Andre Banks said in a press release. “But the IOC is bending its own rules to obscure the obvious conflict with unjust Russian laws, which seek to silence discussion of gay people.”