Anti-Gay Law Shunning Sochi Hurts Olympians, Merkel Says

Russia's new anti-gay "propaganda" law has some Western leaders considering a boycott of the Winter Olympics there next year. But German Chancellor Merkel says such a move would only harm athletes.

Activists in London display placards mocking Russian President Vladimir Putin during an August 10 protest of the new anti-gay 'propaganda' law in his country.

Activists in London display placards mocking Russian President Vladimir Putin during an August 10 protest of the new anti-gay 'propaganda' law in his country.

As the debate over how Russia's ban on gay "propaganda" will affect next year's Winter Olympics in Sochi wears on, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has weighed in.

Some Western politicians, including Merkel's justice minister, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, have suggested that the new law, which discriminates against gays and lesbians, could be grounds for boycotting the event.

But Merkel opposes the idea. According to SPIEGEL, sources within the Chancellery say that the world's attention will be focused on Russia next February, which will do far more to influence the situation there than a boycott, as was the case last year with regard to human rights during the Eurovision Song contest in Azerbaijan.

In the Chancellor's view, athletes would suffer unduly from a boycott, sources told SPIEGEL.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, who is himself gay, expressed a similar view last week, saying that although the new law is "unacceptable," the discussion over boycotting the Olympic Games is "counterproductive."

"It would be wrong to leave the field to those who are against tolerance and the protection of minorities," he told daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Saturday.

Moscow Promises Protection

Westerwelle's comments came in response to controversial statements made over the weekend at the world athletics championships in Moscow by Russian pole vaulting idol Yelena Isinbayeva, who criticized a Swedish athlete for showing solidarity with gay and lesbian athletes by wearing rainbow nail polish.

But on Sunday, Russia's sports minister assured that the country's new law would not cause problems for athletes or spectators during the Winter Games. As the competition in Moscow drew to a close, Vitaly Mutko said that "the freedoms of Russian and foreign athletes and guests who come to Sochi will be absolutely protected," though he compared homosexuality to drug abuse.

Russia decriminalized homosexuality in 1993, and officials insist that the new law passed in June does not penalize gay and lesbian orientation, but the spread of the lifestyle's non-traditional "propaganda" to young people. The law's failure to define what exactly constitutes distribution has many worried that it could be misused.

kla -- with wire reports

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jonathan.ringer 08/19/2013
1. Shunning Sochi Hurts Olympians, Merkel Says
As opposed to the many LGBT people who will be harassed, assaulted, perhaps even murdered...nah, the so called "hurt" suffered by the athletes is NOTHING in comparison to what gays in Russia will suffer. By way of illustration lets say we substitute "gay" for "German" or "Jew". If these laws were aimed at Germans or Jews would so many people still be urging the world to hold its nose and go to Sochi? Not a chance in hell. WAKE UP CHANCELLOR...learn from your own nation's history of persecution of minorities. You should be leading the charge against going to Sochi, not equivocating when lives could be at stake 08/21/2013
2. Russian bigotry
Mutko sounds like another homophobic ignoramus with an axe to grind. I agree wholeheartedly with Jonathan; Merkel needs to get her priorities straight.
vicprim 08/21/2013
3. anti-Russia inflammation
"Don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) was the official United States policy on gays serving in the military from December 21, 1993, to September 20, 2011.The act prohibited any homosexual or bisexual person from disclosing his or her sexual orientation or from speaking about any homosexual relationships. Was there any attempt to boycott sports events in USA then?
spon-facebook-590148855 08/22/2013
4. Re: Anti-Gay Law: Shunning Sochi Hurts Olympians, Merkel Says
Yelena Isinbayeva claims to oppose discrimination against gays and professes respect for her fellow athletes despite her support for Russia’s disputed antigay propaganda laws. The first two pronouncements are not compatible with her third. Isinbayeva states that not abiding by these laws is disrespectful to Russia’s legitimate views. Her views allow a misplaced national pride to triumph over human decency. She needs to be reminded that legislation that discriminate against gays is unacceptable, period. By endorsing these laws, Isinbayeva has disavowed her responsibility as a role model. As Russia’s laws are more likely to adversely affect gay, lesbian and bisexual athletes than their straight peers, her stance is indefensible. I hope young athletes of today dig deep from our treasured Olympic past to emulate the fine example of Jesse Owens standing up to Hitler at the 1932 Berlin Olympics, and assign to Isinbayeva the moral ambiguity she upholds. Russia’s laws are more likely to adversely affect gay, lesbian and bisexual athletes during the lead-in to the Winter Olympics than their straight peers. Not only have these athletes to contend with training and Olympic qualification, there is now the worry of prosecution for visible signs of same-sex attraction whilst competing in Sochi. This will affect their medaling chances as the effort needed for self-censorship to avoid criminal charges can undermine performance. The threat of criminalizing demonstrations of affection between athletes and their partners means that they cannot openly celebrate (or be consoled) after years of total dedication. These laws run contrary to the spirit of sportsmanship and fair play espoused by the Olympic Oath as surely as they discriminate on the basis of sexual preference. It is patently unfair for athletes who have trained hard to be have to take a personal stand against homophobia by being forced to consider abandoning a perhaps once in a lifetime appearance at the Olympics.
spon-facebook-10000458289 08/27/2013
5. homosexuality is ok
We have to accept they are part of community. But not everybody is obliged to know their customs. Winter olympics game is sports festival. No one can disturb it.
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