Should Olympians fear Russia’s anti-gay laws?

26 July 2013OpinionPolitics

Ian Munroe reporting for CBC News:

The COC’s executive director, Dimitri Soudas, said in a phone interview that Olympic officials have “received assurances from the highest levels of the Russian government” that the new anti-gay law “will not affect in any way those attending or taking part in the Games.”

Still, it appears the new “gay propaganda” law has already been used against foreigners visting Russia. Four Dutch nationals were detained and fined on July 21 in the northwestern city of Murmansk, the Moscow Times reported. The group had been making a film on gay rights, the paper said.

Human Rights Watch described a draft of the law as “regressive and discriminatory” and noted that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) “has been reluctant to criticize Russia” ahead of the Sochi Olympics, despite the passage of discriminatory laws that contravene the Olympic Charter.

It will be interesting to see how the intense international media spotlight of the Olympics affects policy in Russia. I believe there were similar human rights issues raised ahead of the Beijing Olympics in 2008, but for all the attention and debate, nothing really changed.