Pride House, an international coalition of LGBT sport and human rights groups has begun an initiative calling on everybody present at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, to show their commitment to inclusive sport by people of the same sex holding hands.

Pride House International announced its Same-Sex Hand-Holding Initiative, a campaign which comes in response to Russian anti-gay laws introduced back in June. The campaign calls on athletes, staff, media, officials, spectators, sponsors, vendors, and fans – to take every opportunity to hold hands with a person of the same sex.

“The very first thing the members of the Pride House International coalition did was to ask our Russian counterparts for their leadership on our campaign,” said Lou Englefield, Director of Pride Sports UK and PHI coordinator.

“Any response, no matter how well-meaning, would be inappropriate without the input of LGBT sportspeople in Russia”.

Konstanin Yablotskiy from the Russian LGBT Sports Federation is part of Pride House International, and was instrumental in conceptualizing the Same-Sex Hand-Holding Initiative.

Yablotskiy said: “Long after the 2014 Olympics, we in Russia will continue to live under this horrible law. For a few weeks we have the opportunity to bring the attention of the world to the situation in Russia. The Same-Sex Hand-Holding Initiative enables everyone to get involved with a simple yet iconic gesture. We know from gestures like Usain Bolt’s lightning stance the impact of such images that are simple, replicable, and identifiable”.

“There are extreme restrictions on the uniforms and other items worn by athletes at any Olympic Games. Flags, badges, or pins are not allowed without IOC approval, a near-impossibility, and wearing something as seemingly innocuous as pink socks or shoelaces is very difficult for athletes to do, and complex to organise for other participants and spectators,” said the Federation of Gay Games’ Les Johnson.

“But everyone can hold hands with their neighbour. Indeed, raising your rivals’ hands in camaraderie is an image we see on every podium at every sporting event.”

The campaign does urge those wishing to participate to exercise caution due to the laws, and said that hands should only be held in public, with as many witnesses as possible, including the media.

Materials in support of this campaign (posters, t-shirts, pins, and web badges) will be available starting by early October on the Pride House International website at pridehouseinternational.org.