The Norman Transcript


August 19, 2013

Athletes have a chance to send a message in Sochi



Wonder how that would go over with Vladimir Putin?

Let’s hope we get to find out.

Certainly, there’s no chance of the International Olympic Committee taking any meaningful steps after Russia’s recent passage of a law that bans so-called gay “propaganda.”

Some of that is understandable, given we’re only months away from the start of the Winter Games — too short a timeframe to pull the mammoth event from Sochi and award it to another city, at least without delaying the games until 2015. But also, as we saw in Beijing, the IOC is more concerned about its bottom line than advancing the cause of human rights.

The Russians insist this is a non-issue being pushed by the West to embarrass the Olympic hosts as they prepare for their moment on the world stage, that the law is merely designed to protect children and there is no desire to criminalize homosexuality. But every time they addressed the complaints during the world athletics championships, which wrapped up Sunday in Moscow, they stepped in the you-know-what.

When Swedish high jumper Emma Green Tregaro painted her fingernails in the colors of the rainbow to support gays and lesbians, Russian pole vault star Yelena Isinbayeva called it a sign of disrespect for her homeland.

“If we allow to promote and do all this stuff on the street, we are very afraid about our nation because we consider ourselves like normal, standard people. We just live with boys with woman, woman with boys,” Isinbayeva said in English. Later, she would claim it was all just a misunderstanding because she wasn’t speaking in her native language.

We’re not buying it, not after we got more of the same nonsense from a top Russian official on the final day of the world championships. Sports minister Vitaly Mutko said the law would not infringe on the private lives of athletes and spectators at the Sochi Olympics, but he seemed to leave open the possibility of prosecuting anyone making statements that were judged to be propaganda.

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