IOC: Olympic Athletes, Press, And Guests Are Exempt From Russia’s Anti-Gay Laws

2014 Olympics
Russia's anti-gay propaganda law, which has already been used to detain four Dutch citizens visiting the country, has proved problematic for the International Olympic Committee in recent weeks. While the committee has previously promised that it would "work to ensure" that LGBT athletes can participate in the games without worry, safety has recently been far from a guarantee, especially with at least one openly-gay Olympian pledging to wear a rainbow pin to the games. 

Now, according to RiaNovosti, the IOC has released a statement saying that it has received “assurances from the highest level” that any LGBT individuals paticipating in the games will be able to do so without incident. The statement comes via R-Sport:

“As a sporting organization, what we can do is to continue to work to ensure that the Games can take place without discrimination against athletes, officials, spectators and the media. To that end, the IOC has received assurances from the highest level of government in Russia that the legislation will not affect those attending or taking part in the Games.”

"The legislation", of course, refers to Russia's ban on "homosexual propaganda". RiaNovosti notes that, normally, said ban…

"Imposes fines for such offenses from 800,000 rubles ($24,000) to 1 million rubles ($30,500) for legal entities, from 4,000 rubles ($120) to 5,000 rubles ($150) for individuals and from 40,000 rubles ($1,220) to 50,000 rubles ($1,530) for officials…Promotion of such relations with the use of mass media or Internet resources will see harsher penalties of 50,000-100,000 rubles ($1,520-3,050) for individuals, 100,000-200,000 rubles ($3,050-6,100) for officials and 1 million rubles or 90-day suspension for legal entities."

Should the IOC's announcement prove true, this would no doubt embolden those wishing to use the 2014 Games as a forum for protest. No word has yet been released as to how this news affects the many advocates and organizations calling for a boycott of the games. Although, since such boycotts are intended to protest more than just the potential harassment of gay athletes, few are likely to change their tune. 



  1. says

    So the purpose of the legislation is really to discriminate against a segment of the Russian people and invite violence upon them, not to “protect children” if others can be exempt from it at the will of the “highest levels.” But then we all knew that anyway.

  2. says

    UGH, I wish Dan Savage was coordinating this instead of the vodka boycott. Here is the deal, all of us need to not watch the olympics, Olympians from the USA need to do stuff like thank gays for their wins, wear rainbow uniforms and gay it up as much as possible. THEN, when the IOC and Russia say that they can’t do that and that they are NOT exempt, THEN we all get to do a nice, actual boycott and protest of Russia.

  3. Darren in atl says

    “at the highest levels of the Russian govt”??? Why should we trust those at that highest level? Are we talking about Putin? If so, who among us (or anybody) can place any trust in what that KGB throwback says? Is this supposed to allieviate concerns? Putin? Please.

  4. Geoff says

    That’s peachy. What about the Russian LGBT community. Sorry. Not until they’re treated absolutely fairly, equally and with dignity – forever. This is only about the money. FAIL.

  5. lukebrux says

    Once that an athlete is arrested, the OIC will turn his sight to the other side too much money had been invested. This is just a pathetic tentative to save their image.

  6. Mike in the tundra says

    All those connected with the Olympics need to be protected from the Russian citizenry, and nobody can promise that. There are just too many instances of blatant violence against LGBT people in Russia.


    How cute. It is like reassuring Jews visiting Nazi Germany that they won’t be targeted in an event there. Nothing wrong guys, nothing to see here, keep on with the Olympics. If a winning athlete (whatever his orientation) displays a rainbow flag that would be awesome to test their fascist law.

  8. Geoff says

    Germany did exactly the same thing in 1936. Money That’s ALL this is about. The government-sanctioned atrocities against the Russian LGBT community will continue.

  9. Kev C says

    Figure skating is the reason the Winter Olympics exist in the first place (true). Men in tights pirouetting on ice. The whole show is gay propaganda.

  10. simon says

    The words of those senior officials are laws?
    It seems that there exist no exemptions in the law. Does it mean the law means nothing and the words of senior officials are more important.

  11. Marco Luxe says

    This rings of the Nazis allowing two half-Jewish athletes on the German Olympic team for the propaganda value. Russian “assurances” mean nothing. The IOC wants to be duped. They prefer to be willfully blind.

  12. Mitch says

    The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and United States Olympic Committee (USOC) sued to prevent what is now known as the Gay Games from being called the Gay Olympics.

    Given such a history, I’m not sure that I would put my faith and trust in the IOC to ensure the safety of gay participants and attendees in Russia in 2014.

  13. rjnick says

    Boycotting wouldn’t accomplish anything other than giving Putin stronger support than he already has. The message to actual Russians would be, “look, the West is trying to tell us to what do and is bullying us like they always do”. And that would play very well to Russians and in the end would only validate his policies rather than change them. Plus, if the west boycotted, Russia would run the medal table and it would be another triumph for Putin. The only people likely to be hurt are the athletes. Also, the US government forbidding American athletes from going is the exact kind of authoritarian move that you’re be protesting.

    More effective would be to participate and defy the ban like Johnny Weir and Blake Skellerjup plan to do. The US could even participate under protest which a lot of countries did in 1980. Some refused to march in the opening ceremony and others refused to march under their own flag. Countries like the UK marched under the Olympic flag and raised the Olympic flag on the medal stand. They also barred their anthem.

    I don’t think the IOC would allow wearing rainbow flags or flying them at the medal ceremonies. However, carrying or wearing them would be allowed during the opening ceremony – the most watch event of the games anyway. That would draw attention to the issue and force NBC to talk about it. NBC not airing the games at all would deny the opportunity for the issue to be laid bare to a national audience at best and at worst could even cause a backlash (the gays are keeping us out of the Olympics!).

  14. Roman Bolliger says

    By giving guarantees “that the Games can take place without discrimination against athletes, officials, spectators and the media” the IOC is showing no guts but pure cowardice. Imagine how strong a message that would be to simply cancel the Sotchi Games!

  15. Gold Medal says

    Hello HRC? Finally something for HRC to really address instead of throwing another fund raiser – yet nothing.

    Also city of West Hollywood -“The Russian-speaking population of West Hollywood is the most concentrated single Russian-speaking region in US outside of New York” – per the weho website. Surely there is a resolution to be passed or something….

  16. Keppler says

    Ya know, I can’t see myself going to the Russian Olympics next year, although six months ago I was considering it, having never been to Russia. While the IOC’s “assurance from the highest [unnamed] level” is certainly nice, I’d have preferred hearing from the Russian government itself telling me that it guarantees my safety from both its official police and the marauding bands of homophobic skinhead/nationalists the appear to be the actual muscle behind its law enforcement efforts. Failing such a promise, I wouldn’t feel safe an a country that has shown such little regard for the safety of its own people.

  17. BreckRoy says

    It is unwise to demand a boycott (we didn’t hurt and instead emboldened the Soviets in 1980 when we skipped the Olympics and they didn’t hurt an were largely igored by us when they boycotted in 1984.  I remember both, remember how many athletes had their dreams crushed, along with the loss of all the investment and sacrifices in training to get to the Olympics…gone in a political move that did nothing to actually help the causes the boycotts were based on–cold war stuff, then–and only turned many who were largely neutral against.)  
    Can you imagine if Russia and our enemies at home could blame missing the Olympics and crushing the Olympic dreams of athletes and families on gays?  People who never caredabout our growing political power might genuinely start to question if it was actually true that a “homosexual lobby” had too much influence.  It wouldn’t be true, of course, and we could point to the law and to the 4 Dutch tourists arrested, but all most people would know is that they couldn’t see the Olympics and that our athletes had their dreams crushed because of “gay rights.”  There would be no huge hit to Russia, Putin would be seen as a moral hero by his people for standing up to the West, and mostly American companies (sponsors, TV networks) and Americans would be hurt financially and hardly anyone would be educated and brought to our side by such a controversial move.
    And as for canceling the whole Olympics?  Are people insane?  China commits far worse abuses every day and was host to the Games.  Brazil is abusing and shunning their poor to “clean up the cities” in advance of the Games (not to mention harming and relocating some native populations as well as destroying rainforests at an alarming and unrecoverable rate–eliminating native cultures, species, and hurting the ecosystem, and they have the Games next. Should we boycott them, too?  
    France has laws that would be considered racist and anti-muslim with fines and jailtime to boot, but should Paris never be allowed to host again?  What about England which was our most active supporter in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and has participated in and defend drone attacks that frequently kill civilians? Should we have boycotted London 2012?  And many feel the secret wiretapping of foreign calls and keeping of Guantanamo Bay are deeply wrong, not to mention our growing tolerance of voter suppression and failure to protect gays against discrimination and hate crimes in many states, but should nations who disagree boycott us?
    The Olympics were designed to be above and apart from politics, even war, for this very reason.  When all the countries of the world are in the candidate pool for hosting, there will ALWAYS be reasons–good reasons–to find many lacking by our varied definitions of human rights, and its the IOCs job to keep the Olympics away from the most flagrant violators (this is partially why the Middle East and Africa are such poor contenders for selection) and while you can argue they failed here, it is worth pointing out that Russia passed these laws recently and the selection of Russia was years and years ago, as was much of the planning and infrustructure investment.  I think Russia has blown its chance for future games but the IOC is doing the best they can with the cards they have been dealt.
    And now it is time to play ours…be visible, educate others, protest in russia if we are there, push the boundaries to spread gay love and acceptance and wave flags, wear pins, and bring it up in every interview.  You want the world to take notice? Then take advantage of the world stage the Olympics provide and make some noise.
    Don’t advocate boycotts that will mostly hurt Americans and lead to more reticence about gay political influence within the general public and embolden our enemies.  

  18. Michael says

    Well if there’s one thing that’s stronger than Russia’s hatred of gay people, it’s their love for money.

    Obviously boycotting, not the Olympics but Russian brands, is the way to go.

    The classic thing is, as far as I can tell, the ONLY thing Russia has to offer to the world is vodka and no wonder since you would need a ton of it to survive that shite stain of the world.

    btw, does anyone want to bet Putin is a homosexual?

  19. Mmike1969 says

    Yeah. I don’t believe you. I have no faith in these Russian pigs and I am just sorry that the only thing Russia has to boycott is their swill vodka.

  20. Bill says

    @Simon: “Does it mean the law means nothing and the words of senior officials are more important?”

    Simon, I don’t think we are in Kansas anymore.

    Russian officials understand the rules: “If you arrest any athletes or anyone attending the games on the basis of this silly law, you’ll never get to host an Olympics event again.” And that will make the not-so-mighty Ruble even less mighty.

  21. simon says

    ‘Nontraditional sexual relations’ probably also include prostitution. IOC also obtained assurance from senior officials that foreigners and athletes can engage in those activities.

  22. Andy says

    Well, I still won’t watch the Olympics because Russia sucks. At least, though, it’s good to know that athletes and visitors and press members will be safe from Russian hatred. Thank goodness for that.

  23. Craig says

    There will never be a boycott of these Olympics so we have to get past that. We have to look at this as an opportunity to educate and promote what exactly “gay” is. Luckily most of the winter Olympic “power teams” tend to be some of the more gay friendly countries. US, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Denmark, etc. Virtually none of the African or Middle Eastern countries who have abominable human rights records stand any chance of making the podium. And the Asian teams are pretty neutral as far as Russia is concerned. We need to get participants and spectators from the more gay friendly countries to really push the limits. That will be a big education project because frankly, not much is known about this outside the gay community. But there’s still plenty of time. We need to send off those “Legalize Gay” t-shirts (in Russian and English) to as many participants as possible – just a start.

  24. gregorybrown says

    The “highest levels of government” can promise not to harass, intimidate or otherwise interfere with LGBT athletes and visitors to the games–officially, But much of what I read says that the actual hands-on dirty work is done by skinhead ultranationalist thugs, and other goons supported by the Russian Orthodox Church. Sometimes the gangs attacking LGBY folks include actual priests or seminarians.

  25. Michael says

    Though I might agree that a USA boycott would not necessarily make a big impression, one involving more nations would be more effective. The leaders of Russia need to work to change the bigotry. The Church and State in Russia are returning to the middle ages, thereby, joining the regimes of Saudi Arabia, et al.

  26. MikeBles says

    The corporate sponsorships have already been made. American and European companies are already gearing up their marketing and product tie ins for the Olympics. Boycott the American and European companies who are investing in the Olympics, who have purchased sponsorships.

    If these companies start to feel or even suspect some profit loss as a result of supporting the Russian Olympics they will apply so much pressure to the IOC to move the games your heads will spin.

  27. Carpool Cookie says

    I don’t care if some athletes “dreams are crushed” if teams were not to attend Olympics in Russia. I care about if they put their careers before the brotherhood/sisterhood of Civil Rights. Which do they value?

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