Just before the start of the Russian Open Games, an LGBT sporting event that promotes sports among LGBT athletes and supporters, various venues cancelled at the last minute, reportedly due to government pressure. And on top of that, the opening ceremony was then called off at the last minute due to a bomb scare.
Instead, an impromptu ceremony was relocated to a nightclub. Organizer Konstantin Yablotskiy, alongside honorary guest Greg Louganis, held a kick-off news conference in the club’s parking lot.
Over the last few days before the Games, organizers have faced serious issues with holding their events. They told press that the Hilton Hotel, which was set to hold a roundtable discussion group as well as four sports venues, backed out of hosting the events in the face of government pressure to discontinue their relationship with the Russian LGBT Sports Federation.
On February 25, Russian Open Games released a statement via their Facebook page that said, “As we expected, things started to happen…Throughout the past couple of hours, several venues cancelled their agreements with the organizers of the Open Games under various pretexts. In some of these cases, the organizers were informed about ‘calls from the administration’ that venue management received.”
The statement went on, “It is far beyond attempts to disrupt events by homophobic groups, but a targeted and strong decision of the authorities to not let public LGBT events happen through exerting pressure on venue owners.”
Another post, from Wednesday, February 26, stated that the Open Games in Moscow had lost every single venue with which it had signed a contract.
Nevertheless, the opening ceremony and the games seem to be back on track, despite the continuous issues. They even received support from Julianne Moore, who made a video message expressing her support of the games.
“This is nothing new in our community, unfortunately,” Yablotskiy told ABC News.
“The aim of these games is to send a positive message to our society, to our authorities, that we are normal people. I think sports transcends many differences, whether it be political differences, religious differences, or views about LGBT people…By being here and supporting these games I hope I can shed a little light on [gay life]and share a part of my world of being a gay man living with HIV, but also living a full life and integrated life.”
The games are set to conclude on March 2.