John M. Becker

Sochi LGBT Roundup: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

Filed By John M. Becker | February 10, 2014 12:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Olympic rings, Olympics, Russia, Russian anti-LGBT laws, Russian LGBT protest, Russian propaganda law, Sochi, Sochi 2014

russia-olympic-rings-fail.jpgAre you turning off the Sochi Games because of Russia's draconian anti-LGBT crackdown? Lost in a sea of Olympic-related media reports? Or did you just miss a few hours of watching this weekend?

Well never fear, because I've rounded up the LGBT-related highlights of the Winter Olympics so far. Check it out, and let me know if there are any stories I've missed!

- Okay, it's not exactly an LGBT-specific highlight, but a technical glitch during the Opening Ceremony caused one of five glowing snowflakes -- which were supposed to open up to make the Olympic ring pattern -- to get stuck, resulting in a major fail that was essentially a visual encapsulation of Russia's well-publicized problems leading up to the start of the Games.

But Russian TV station Rossiya 1 swapped out footage of the fail with video from a dress rehearsal, so as far as Russian television audiences knew, everything worked out fine.

- Chevrolet aired two ads during the Opening Ceremonies featuring a gay families. It was the first time gay families have been included in a TV commercial during an Olympics Opening Ceremony, and GLAAD hailed the spots as a milestone. Watch:

- Coca-Cola, under fire from LGBT advocates for its Olympic sponsorship and from racists and xenophobes for its pro-diversity Super Bowl ad, did the same.

- Former Secretary of Homeland Security and head of the U.S. Presidential Delegation to the Olympics Janet Napolitano spoke out in support of LGBT equality in Russia, despite the country's notorious "gay propaganda" ban. Out LGBT delegates Caitlin Cahow and Brian Boitano joined her. Watch:

- Bisexual Dutch speedskater Ireen Wüst, one of six openly LGBT Olympians competing in Sochi, won gold Sunday in the 3000-meter race.

Wüst told Dutch National Broadcaster NOS today that she got a "cuddle" from Russian President Vladimir Putin at a party thown in her honor. ABC News reports that the move may have been intended to quiet fears that gay athletes or fans could be targeted in Sochi.

- Cheryl Maas, a lesbian snowboarder from the Netherlands, became the first Olympic athlete to protest Russia's anti-LGBT law at the Sochi Games. As David Badash reports, after a failed attempt to qualify for the slopestyle event, Maas approached the camera and held up a glove covered with unicorns and rainbows. Watch (Maas's protest comes at around 2:00):

But it wasn't all unicorns and rainbows, though. Dozens of protesters were arrested across Russia, some of whom were demonstrating against Russia's anti-LGBT crackdown. Details, after the jump.

russia-sochi-protest-arrests.png- According to the New York Times, at least 61 people were arrested across Russia ahead of the Opening Ceremonies:

In Moscow, at least 19 people were arrested near Red Square during a smattering of protests calling for gay rights. Those detained included several foreign activists who gathered at a clock counting down the last minutes to the opening of the Games. Another protester was arrested near a central subway station for unfurling a banner that said, "No Thieving Olympics..."

"Human rights are generally violated in Russia," said Polina Andrianova, a gay-rights activist in St. Petersburg, where the four demonstrators were arrested shortly after posing for a photograph near the State Hermitage Museum with a banner that read, "Discrimination is incompatible with the Olympic Movement. Principle 6. Olympic Charter."

Some of the Moscow protesters were arrested in Red Square, where they gathered at the start of the Opening Ceremonies to wave rainbow flags and sing the Russian national anthem. Watch:

BuzzFeed reported that the mostly Russian group also contained two Swedish activists, who were released soon after being detained. But the Russians reported that at least two in the group had been beaten and threatened with sexual assault. They were also reportedly denied the right to be seen by a public defender. From a text message transcript provided by BuzzFeed:

Me: "We didn't sign anything. Are you all still there?"
Them: "Yes, in cage. They beated [sic] two of us"
Me: "Oh no, who? What can we do? Can you keep reporting? Are all of you in the same cage?"
Them: "Two queers [were beaten]. Before that they took us upstairs and said that we have to suck their cocks' and that we have to be burned. When we said that we gonna complain. So they bring us back to cage. So we dont let them close it without paper, pen and their names. So they beat two of us and then used cuffs."
Them: "Yes we are together. Now we are singing."
Them: "They beated [sic] our people again - cause we asked to let our public defender come to us. They didnt give us any docs."

The Russians were later released.

In an email to BuzzFeed, Emmanuelle Moreau, head of media relations for the International Olympic Committee, seemingly defended the arrests:

"We understand that the protesters were quickly released. As in many countries in the world, in Russia, you need permission before staging a protest. We understand this was the reason that they were temporarily detained."

Rachel Maddow reported on the arrests during her show on Friday:

- Three American fundies traveled to Sochi to protest on the streets and deliver anti-gay propaganda. The Wall Street Journal reports that "none of the very large police presence... appeared to approach them." Color me shocked.

- Formula 1 racing team Lotus apologized after tweeting a sexy picture of two men kissing (below) accompanied by the message: "Ahead of the opening ceremony, we would like to wish all athletes a successful 2014 Olympic Winter Games #Sochi2014"

According to the BBC, the company said the tweet was unauthorized and deleted it "because it was causing problems for their business." Lotus reportedly does a great deal of business in Russia.

lotus-tweet-olympic-sexy.jpg

Image via Towleroad.

- Daniela Iraschko-Stolz, a lesbian ski jumper from Austria, told the press after training yesterday that protests against Russia's anti-gay laws aren't worth it because "no one cares." Her full quote:

"I don't think it's a good idea to make protests here, no one cares. I know Russia will go and make the right steps in the future and we should give them time."

Just how much time should we give the Russians, Ms. Iraschko-Stolz, while gays are literally being hunted in the streets?

- And finally, Twitter exploded during the Opening Ceremonies on Friday with reports that the Greek team wore "rainbow" gloves to show support for the LGBT community. But sadly, those reports were false: the multicolored gloves are the official gloves of the Winter Olympics, with each finger representing one of the five colors of the Olympic rings.

So there you go, you're all caught up now. Feel better?


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