With the Winter Olympics in Sochi quickly approaching, safety concerns continue to be on the minds of many. With Russia’s anti-gay laws, people are worried about the safety of gay and lesbian competitors and spectators visiting the country.
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced to the public that gay individuals do not need to worry about harassment—as long as they keep their distance from children.
“We do not have a ban on non-traditional sexual relationships,” Putin said to Olympic volunteers. “We have a ban on the propaganda of homosexuality and pedophilia. I want to underline this. Propaganda among children. These are absolutely different things—a ban on something or a ban on the propaganda of that thing.”
“We are not forbidding anything,” he continued, “and nobody is being grabbed off the street, and there is no punishment for such kinds of relations. You can feel relaxed and calm [in Russia], but leave children alone please.”
The issue has been a divisive one among the international community, with heads of state, celebrities, former athletes, and citizens speaking out and taking action in support or opposition of Russia’s attitudes.
Senior Italian International Olympic Committee member Mario Pescante criticized America for sending openly gay athletes to represent the US in the Olympic delegation ceremonies.
‘‘It’s absurd that a country like that sends four lesbians to Russia just to demonstrate that in their country gay rights have (been established),’’ Pescante stated during an Italian Olympic Committee meeting in Milan on January 15, as reported by Italian media outlets. ‘‘The games should not be an occasion and a stage to promote rights that sports supports daily.’’
In an attempt to try to clarify Pescente’s statement, The Associated Press asked him if he was anti-gay, to which he replied, “Of course not…I just wanted to make the point not to let politics interfere with the Olympics.’’
2014 is the first year since 2000 that neither a US President, Vice President, First Lady, or any former presidents will be in attendance at the games. French President Francois Hollande and German President Joachim Gauck both announced that they also would not be attending the event in Sochi.
Pescante, who is the head of International Relations Commission of the IOC and served as former IOC vice president, has plans to insert a section into the Olympic truce which would include a policy on political protest.
‘‘We’ve seen boycotts, concerns over Aborigine rights in Australia, the Tibet issue in China. It’s enough already,’’ Pescante said. ‘‘There are always going to be issues wherever the games are held, but the best way to combat these issues is by letting the games unfold and sending thousands of journalists to these places to report on what is going on there.’’