The head of the Australian Olympic committee has told the country’s athletes to keep protests “off the podium” at the Winter Olympics in Russia next week.
Olympics boss John Coates denies “gagging’”Australian athletes from speaking out against Russia’s anti-gay laws, but has warned them against doing so at Olympic events.
He said: “We control the podium. And we say there will be no political demonstrations there, and that’s the message we’ve given to our athletes. We’re asking them to respect the Olympic movement during those ceremonies.”
“If they do [protest on the podium], they will be dealt with, on a case-by-case basis.”
“We respect the right of our athletes to express an opinion. The place to do it is at the press conference after the event.”
“Enjoy the medal, respect your fellow competitors. If you want to have a whack at the Russian government over this legislation, do it in your press conference.”
Lesbian Australian snowboarder Belle Brockhoff had previously told ABC that she would consider some form of protest at the event, but “it’s definitely a little bit scary when you think about, like, arrest and deportation, pulling out of events and all that stuff.”
Russian official Konstantin Dolgov said last week: “If a skater is planning to come as a member of the Olympic team not to compete, but to fight against a law in the host country, it is very bad. It means that this particular skater does not respect Olympic principles.”
Many Olympians are thought to be planning symbolic protests against the country’s anti-gay propaganda laws. Last October, the German Olympic team unveiled a ‘rainbow’ design as their official uniform.
The Winter Olympics open next Friday in Sochi.