Sochi Winter Olympics gets underway today

February 7, 2014
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With unprecedented scrutiny over Russia’s anti-gay laws, the Winter Olympics in Sochi begins today.

The opening ceremony starts at 15.30 GMT. The run up to the Games has been overshadowed by Russia’s position on LGBT rights.

Some LGBT rights campaigners have urged a boycott of Sochi in protest at Russian President Vladimir Putin’s introduction of laws banning “homosexual propaganda”.

But others fear it would only lead to greater marginalisation of Russia’s LGBT community.

Many governments instead are using diplomacy to get their position across to Russia.

Italy’s Prime Minister Enrico Letta said he will raise the issue of Russia’s anti-gay laws during his trip to the opening ceremony today.

Last December, US President Barack Obama named several gay former athletes as part of America’s delegation to the Winter Olympics.

In a significant move the White House confirmed that no senior US official would be attending the Games.

Several days before, French President Francois Hollande announced he would not be attending the Games.

German President Joachim Gauck also said he was not going to Sochi.

However, both President Hollande and President Gauck failed to state their official reasons for not attending.

Someone who did state her reasons for not attending was EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding. She announced on her official Twitter account that she would “certainly not go to Sochi as long as minorities are treated the way they are under the current Russian legislation.”

Princess Anne and Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalites, will lead the UK’s delegation and visit athletes in Sochi during the Games.

Sports and Equalites Minister Helen Grant will also travel to Sochi.

Mrs Grant yesterday rejected criticism by Labour MP Chris Bryant that the UK should have included openly gay public figures in its Olympic delegation.

Downing Street announced in December that Prime Minister David Cameron would not be attending the event – only because it was not a British convention to do so.

On Thursday, United Nations Secretary-General Bank Ki-moon used a speech ahead of the Winter Olympics to condemn attacks on the LGBT community in Russia.

Google rebranded itself on Friday ahead of the opening ceremony with a rainbow sporting montage as its Google Doodle.

Russian leaders have all attempted to play down fears that athletes and spectators could be prosecuted for speaking out on LGBT rights.

Reiterating last month’s comments by President Vladimir Putin, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak this week warned gay people to “leave the kids alone.”

Telecoms company AT&T, a sponsor of the US Olympic team, criticised Russia this week over the laws.

Activists have pressed other Olympic sponsors such as Coca-Cola to similarly speak up on their position of Russia’s anti-gay legislation.



More: anti-gay laws, Europe, G20, gay wedding, Moscow, putin, Russia, Russia, Sochi Winter Olympics, Sochi Winter Olympics 2014, St Petersburg, Stephen Fry, Tags Russia sochi olympics, Vladimir Putin, Winter Olympics, Winter Olympics 2014

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