Pride House Introduces Same-Sex Hand Holding Initiative For Olympic Athletes In Sochi

The IOC's recent announcement that it plans to crack down on all forms of pro-LGBT protest and activism has obviously sparked strong reactions from members of the international LGBT community. Some athletes still plan on making statements, regardless of the consequences. Pride House, an international coalition of LGBT sport and human rights groups, has a new solution to offer, one that encourages participation from LGBT athletes as well as their straight allies. It's also relatively simple, and requires no special equipment, wardrobe, or paraphernalia. 

The group is proposing the "Same Sex Hand Holding Initiative, which encourages all Olympic participants: athletes, coaches, spectators, staff, media, regardless of their orientation or background, to hold hands with as many members of the same sex as possible as often as possible. That's it.

Lou Englefield, Director of Pride Sports UK and PHI coordinator, talked about the genesis of the idea with Pink News:

“The very first thing the members of the Pride House International coalition did was to ask our Russian counterparts for their leadership on our campaign. Any response, no matter how well-meaning, would be inappropriate without the input of LGBT sportspeople in Russia." 

Holding-hands-One such Russian sportsperson was Konstanin Yablotskiy from the Russian LGBT Sports Federation, who was among those responsible for coming up with the concept:

"The Same-Sex Hand-Holding Initiative enables everyone to get involved with a simple yet iconic gesture. We know from gestures like Usain Bolt’s lightning stance the impact of such images that are simple, replicable, and identifiable."

Les Johnson of the Federation of Gay Games also weighed in:

"There are extreme restrictions on the uniforms and other items worn by athletes at any Olympic Games. Flags, badges, or pins are not allowed without IOC approval, a near-impossibility, and wearing something as seemingly innocuous as pink socks or shoelaces is very difficult for athletes to do, and complex to organise for other participants and spectators. But everyone can hold hands with their neighbour. Indeed, raising your rivals’ hands in camaraderie is an image we see on every podium at every sporting event."

Johnson raises a very interesting point. Since the initiative encourages participation from all those in attendance at the games, not just LGBT people, the gesture could theoretically pass by Russian authorities as purely innocuous. Nevertheless, Pride House still encourages those participating in the Same Sex Hand Holding Initiative to do so in a public place where there are plenty of spectators (and potentially press). 

For those still wishing to make  statement with actual concrete materials such as posters, shirts, pins, and so on, Pride House has also announced that it will be making those materials available starting in October on its official website


  1. Brian says

    Yet more frivolous suggestions from gay organizations.

    Just move the effing games. You’ve got to hit the Russians in the balls.

  2. Randy says

    “Indeed, raising your rivals’ hands in camaraderie is an image we see on every podium at every sporting event.”

    OK. So what’s the point?

  3. disgusted American says

    I actually see how this could become a BIG thing…….I like the idea….if that’s all that can be done, it could be very Powerful…holding hands constantly. Really who ever notices..til now, when everyone is doin it!!!!

  4. gomez says

    i agree with disgusted american, it’s simple, powerful, will get people talking, and dares russia and the ioc. I like it

  5. TampaZeke says

    Even better, why don’t we have the athletes wave and smile during the opening ceremonies!

    That’ll REALLY show ’em!

  6. Zlick says

    Yeah, it’s a little weaksauce … BUT – the games are NOT going to be moved or boycotted by the U.S. So what we’re left with is visibility protests. I wish we could rely on every straight athlete who wins a medal or is otherwise interviewed saying something about this issue to the press. And I’m sure some will, but it likely won’t be a groundswell. Maybe we’ll be surprised. But what does that leave us with – especially if athletes can’t modify their uniforms?

    It might just have to a great many small things. A hand-holding campaign is sweet enough. Heheh, certainly small enough. I see no harm in adding it to a mix of sauce that hopefully, when fully tasted, won’t come out too weak.

  7. Brent says


    That’s not going to happen. People can sign all the petitions they want, the games don’t have time to move anywhere nor would they, and most countries would not boycott. So might as well come up with ideas of what can actually be done.

  8. AdamK says

    Straight Russsians hold hands and put their arms around each other all the time. It doesn’t read as gay in Russian culture. Completely useless and culturally ignorant.

  9. Will says

    Is this where we are? ….holding hands as the protest? Although it is a supporting gesture, no one will care.

    Boycott the advertisers, sponsors, and hotels and don’t wait for a statement from them. Send them and the IOC the video of the 15 year old that they poured urine on his head and called him a fag and also send the video of the skinheads trapping and beating up another young man, then inserting coke bottles in his ass. Then ask them to comment and see what they say.

    Stop letting them talk in generalities. LBGT lives are at stake.

    Mr Putina’s Olympics hates homosexuals. They IOC hates homosexuals. It’s all pretty clear at this point.

    They should not be able to benefit from the billions of dollars that’s planned on being spent until this horrible horrible law is changed. Putina spent $$$$$$$ on these games to boast to the world what a strong powerful force Russia has become and the way to fight back is with a failed Olympics.

    Boycott Russia and pressure on the sponsors.

    They also need to be very worried about what to expect.

  10. andrew says

    @ADAMK: I think straight Russian men also kiss each other on the lips in public. I remember, in Olympics of the past, seeing Russian coaches kiss their male team members on the lips after they competed. I think they have since stopped doing this at international games because of criticism they received.

  11. Kev C says

    Yeah, kissing would be a better, and should be done voluntarily, but hand-holding works with allies and is dignified.

  12. Bill says

    I think the hand holding is a great idea (suggested it on my own previously in other comments). It may seem rather mild to us, but it will seem radical to the Russians, and will also show them how backwards they are.

    Kissing would be even better. We should demand that the Olympics treat all kisses equally. If a man can kiss a woman, a man should be allowed to kiss a man. If it is “political” for gays to kiss, it is “political” for straights to kiss (as they are flaunting how they have rights that gays do not have). Also, banning only same-sex kisses would give straight athletes an unfair advantage over gay athletes as the straight athletes would be allowed to get support from their partners that gay athletes are not allowed to get. It may be a minor advantage, but when winning a ski race means finishing a hundredth of a second faster than the next guy, a minor advantage can mean the difference between winning and losing.

  13. jeffinla says

    In many countries around the world same sex hand holding is normal, including Russia. Americans are the ones who have an issue with it. Next.

  14. EchtKultig says

    “In many countries around the world same sex hand holding is normal, including Russia. Americans are the ones who have an issue with it. Next.”

    Yes, but for westerners to do it in support of gay rights sort of brilliantly “queers” the cultural norm. Since a boycott is going to be almost completely ineffective (sorry, let’s be realistic) and they certainly aren’t going to move the games, this is a good place to start.

  15. Anastasia Beaverhousen says

    I rarely ever see two males hold hands who are not homosexual. It’s a sign of affection and stands at odds with the masculine aesthetic.

  16. emjayay says

    What’s with all you naysayers? How often have you ever seen the athletes from any country parade around for example in the opening holding hands? Everyone will get it. I’d love to see it.

    And doing one thing does not mean people can’t boycott Stoli or embarrass McDonalds or confront GE or that competitors can’t pull out a rainbow flag on the medals podium or kiss their same sex girl/boyfriend, or spectators can’t not go at all and have the stands half empty or go and wear rainbow jackets or whatever else that anyone can think of.

  17. Kev C says

    Holding hands can get you beat up in NYC, which is now 90% russian (friggin democrats and their liberal immigration policies). Who uses brass knuckles? Russians do.

  18. mike says

    Why not just suggest EVERYONE hold hands. Not just same sex. As for a boycott, it is not going to happen. So if an athlete wants to boycott on an individual basis that would be more powerful in statement. But I doubt any if many are going to miss a chance to compete. We also need to address the continued discrimination in our own country. Work toward taking down the talking heads who make money off of promoting hate. Require much more severe sentences for crimes committed.