“Open Games” in Moscow to Test an Antigay Law
Viktor Romanov, a retired investigator for the Soviet and Russian security services and chairman of the board of the Russian L.G.B.T. Sport Federation, is planning to hold a gay-friendly sports event in Moscow, days after the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Mr. Romanov is concerned because he doesn’t know how the government will take the “Open Games” in which athletes of any orientation will participate in eight different disciplines.
The highly publicized Russian federal law banning “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relationships to minors” has caused international disapproval threatening to boycott the Sochi Games. President Putin has claimed that “in Russia there are no laws which punish sexual minorities.” However, people worry that the law is not clear about how the term “propaganda” will be interpreted.
The Russian L.G.B.T. Sport Federation is officially registered with the Russian Ministry of Sport. Konstantin Yablotskiy, a figure skater and president of the organization, noted that “sport is a universal instrument to solve many different problems.”
Despite the harsh repression against gays, the Russian L.G.B.T. Sport Federation, founded in 2010, has more than 800 registered members in 22 cities across Russia, including three Olympic-level athletes.
Anna Zhelnina, a professor at the Center for Civil Society and Human Rights, an affiliate of St. Petersburg State University, worries about the way authorities enforce the law. Zhelina claims “any law can also be used as an instrument in a future political battle.”
Mr. Yablotskiy is uncertain about what is propaganda. The group already held a sports festival last year in St. Petersburg where gay colors were displayed in public and nobody complained.
The Russian L.G.B.T. Sport Federation’s members are amateur athletes who compete in international events such as Gay Games or World Out Games and their main intention is to build community and propagandize only sport.
The group’s leadership has been working clandestinely after the anti-gay law passed, and they plan to use the Olympics as a public forum.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that his government will be tolerant and will welcome gays during the Sochi Olympic Games, however many worry that the recent anti-gay law might affect visiting athletes and tourists.
The Open Games being organized by the Russian L.G.B.T. Sport Federation, scheduled to take place three days after the Olympic event ends, will test the Russian anti-gay law and its organizers have valid reasons to be concerned about potential government reactions during the event.
Although Konstantin Yablotzkiy, president of the L.G.B.T. organization wants to focus on sports and not in politics, it is well known that most Russians are homophobic and that the confusion about the term "propaganda" may be cause for trouble.
The success of the Open Games will be at risk, as the Russian anti-gay law is holding back valuable information for people to make a balanced and reasonable opinion about gays.