BY PROFESSOR IAN BLACKSHAW In June of this year, the Russian Federation passed legislation outlawing, with heavy fines, anyone providing information to under 18 year olds concerning homosexuality.
This new law has been seen, in some gay and lesbian circles, as being aimed against gay athletes and spectators participating in the forthcoming 2014 Winter Olympic Games in the Russian city of Sochi and has resulted in calls for boycotting the Games or changing their venue to another country.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has sought clarification of the wording and meaning of this law, and has now received “strong written reassurances” from the Russian Government that “everyone will be welcome in Sochi regardless of their sexual orientation.” Indeed, the Constitution of the Russian Federation expressly forbids any form of discrimination, especially of minorities.
But will all this satisfy gay and lesbian athletes who often wish, when competing in high profile sports events with a global media reach, to make a public stance about their sexual orientation, if not flaunt it and celebrate it.
Of course, point 6 of the ‘Fundamental Principles of Olympism’, as set out in the Olympic Charter, provides that:
“Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic movement.”
However, political slogans or other gestures are prohibited at the Olympic Games under rule 51.3 of the Olympic Charter, which provides as follows:
“No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”
The wording of this provision, which is strictly enforced by the IOC, would, it is submitted, cover gay and lesbian rights demonstrations by athletes and spectators at the Games. In other words, using them as a platform for disseminating their views and promoting their crusade.
So, what, one may reasonably ask, are gay and lesbian athletes complaining about? It all seems to me to add up to a non-issue and amount to a storm in the proverbial tea cup!
Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw is an international sports lawyer academic and author and may be contacted by e-mail at ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’