An Olympics security officer tackled and detained a young man who held up a rainbow flag during the Olympic torch relay in Voronezh, Russia. The security officer was wearing the standard uniform: one emblazoned with a Coca-Cola logo on the pants and chest. Nobody displays the Coca-Cola logo (or the logo of any Olympic sponsor) without Coke’s explicit permission; and it's not like Coke didn't know.

Corporate sponsors have a lot to lose as their global Olympic ads roll out. Please sign the petition to make them finally speak out against Russia's ugly, religiously motivated anti-gay laws.

Tags: LGBT, Olympics, Russia, Sochi, gay, rights

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Homophobia is sometimes too much for me to handle...I can't face it on every battlefront. I don't have the reserves. Waahh. I know, this is sounding like a first world problems rant. But damn, I can only take so much from my family and community in addition to worrying about which homoeroticly-Manly-Man Dictator is currently scapegoating us. Yeah, Putin, I think you might at least be a closeted bisexual or repressed gay man at most.

For people who don't have the choice to turn off the news and retreat into a gay happy place, I'll sign the petition. I'm not watching the Olympics because Putin's Russia is too fucked up...and I've reached my monthly limit for exposure to hatred. 

For people who don't have the choice to turn off the news and retreat into a gay happy place, I'll sign the petition.

As I write this, the petition has been signed 66,495 times, one of which was yours. For most of us, the only form of activism we can really do involves getting behind other organized activists. We sign petitions, drop a dollar in a virtual tip jar, send form letters to senators and CEOs, boycott or patronize businesses, or just ensure conversations like this one are taking place. 

Does it help? Will it change anything this time around? I doubt it. Will it change anything for the next Olympics, or the one after that, or the one after that? Victories like the DOMA ruling are what keep me saying: maybe. That's why I think it's worth doing.

Yes, it's about pressure in the long run, and not just pressure on the IOC or Russia. At home, Canada has stated they will look favourably on Russian LGBT refugee claims. MP Jason Kenney, the Minister of Immigration who had previously been criticized by gay rights groups for removing same-sex marriage information from the new citizenship study guides, wrote the following letter in 2012:

Subject: LGBT Refugees from Iran


Last Friday, my colleague John Baird, Minister of Foreign Affairs, spoke in great detail about Canada's principled foreign policy, including our efforts to promote basic freedoms around the world, and to take a stand against the persecution of gays and lesbians, and against the marginalization of women in many societies. I made similar remarks in my speech last November to the global conference of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, where I raised the particular plight of gay and lesbian refugees.

As Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, I believe that Canada should always be a place of refuge for those who truly need our protection. That is why we continue to welcome those fleeing persecution, which oftentimes includes certain death, including on the basis of sexual orientation.

We are proud of the emphasis our Conservative Government has placed on gay and lesbian refugee protection, which is without precedent in Canada's immigration history. We have increased the resettlement of gay refugees living abroad as part of our refugee programs. In particular, we have taken the lead in helping gay refugees who have fled often violent persecution in Iran to begin new, safe lives in Canada. We are also helping community groups like the Rainbow Refugee Committee to sponsor gay refugees for resettlement to Canada.

There's enough public voice that the government knows which side of the issue it would rather be on. That's not to say there is no sincerity in Kenney's message, but Conservatives in Canada must realize they only stand to lose votes by picking the wrong side or even remaining too neutral, and Sochi protests will add to that.

Mentalities shift not just in the camps which are being protested, but also in onlookers who see how much attention homophobia gets. Make it a headache for the IOC and Olympic sponsors, and hopefully other parties will take note, such as FIFA with the hotly contested (for a number of reasons) 2022 Qatar selection. Maybe they won't turn 180, but they will be wary of unnecessary hassles or damage to their image.

The momentum of money.

The goal of the Olympics was supposed to be broader than just sport, so while I may give a free pass for other events in Russia which have little or nothing to do with gay rights in that nation, it doesn't work for the Olympics.

For individual athletes, I don't expect them to withdraw. For many, this is the pinnacle of their career and perhaps their single shot. I don't quite agree with sport being a career, but it is, and if someone asked me to give up my career in a gesture that would be forgotten in a few months and effect little to no change, I don't think I'd do it. Don't really agree with athletes who think that winning will stick it to the Russians either. What then, will losing mean?

But for sponsors, it's a different story. I'm sure even with boycotts and protests their profits won't be damaged much from riding it out. I remember having as a child a strong sensitivity of the ideological aspects of the Olympic Games. It was about the unity of people, nations coming together to achieve the best in sport or some such thing. Didn't take long for the veneer to chip away. Coke will probably try to avoid commenting as much as possible on Russia's homophobic policies and practices. They're a company, and we've come to expect them not to rock the boat where money is concerned. Still, it's just one more transparent gesture making the farce of Coca-cola supporting the Olympic spirit that much harder to swallow.

 The momentum of money.

That's really what's so disturbing about this: money talks. The International Olympic Committee has an extremely clear and rather high set of standards regarding discrimination, as codified in the Olympic Charter:

  1. "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." (pp. 12)
  2. "The mission of the IOC is to promote Olympism throughout the world and to lead the
    Olympic Movement. The IOC’s role is: #6 to act against any form of discrimination affecting the Olympic Movement." (pp. 16)
  3. "The IOC admits its new members at a ceremony during which they agree to fulfil their obligations by taking the following oath: 'Granted the honour of becoming a member of the International Olympic Committee, and declaring myself aware of my responsibilities in such capacity, I undertake to serve the Olympic Movement to the very best of my ability; to respect and ensure the respect of all the provisions of the Olympic Charter and the decisions of the International Olympic Committee, which I consider as not subject to appeal on my part; to comply with the Code of Ethics; to keep myself free from any political or commercial influence and from any racial or religious consideration; to fight against all other forms of discrimination; and to promote in all circumstances the interests of the International Olympic Committee and those of the Olympic Movement.'" (pp. 32-33.)

Nevertheless, the International Olympic Committee spent most of 2013 pretending it has no grounds to challenge Russia's imposition of a 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' Olympics, thanks to Russian laws that require arrest, imprisonment, fines, or deportation for anyone displaying pro-gay speech or behavior, such as mentioning a same-sex spouse, holding hands, mentioning such views online, or wearing a rainbow flag button.

Just ask IOC Chairman Jean-Claude Killy, who sat at a table festooned with bottles of Coke, and made the Orwellian proclamation that “as long as the Olympic Charter is respected [in Russia] we are satisfied, and that is the case.”  Okay all you gays! The IOC has given this long and careful thought. Just keep your fucking mouths shut and nobody gets hurt. What's more respectful than that?

No, the IOC isn't going to do a damn thing that would interfere with a successful Olympic Games, or annoy the people who are paying for it, which are higher priorities than upholding the values and standards of the Olympic Charter. So they're squaring the circle and officially stating that Russia's discriminatory anti-gay laws aren't discriminatory, don't violate an oath to fight against "any form of discrimination", and that anti-LGBT discrimination isn't really discrimination at all.

Integrity. It's what makes the world go 'round.

Steven Fry was right.... these games should have been boycotted by every country that are opposed to homophobia but David Cameron was against that idea. Turning a blind eye like this was how Nazi Germany started. We have to remember that most Russians are good people, it’s only the their leaders that are backward thinkers

it’s only the their leaders that are backward thinkers

I'm not sure where you get that in this case. Russia has well over a hundred million people, if memory serves, so any statements made will, of course, be broad generalizations, but the nation's problems with homophobia certainly don't start with this law. According to Pew Research, 74% of Russians believe that homosexuality should not be accepted compared to 16% who think it should.

If you look up the history of the Moscow Pride parade going back to 2006, you can see how the government cites public disapproval in banning the parade, then the organizers find a way to do it in protest which is in turn met with violence from other citizens. Instead of offering some protection to the parade, the government simply allows the pattern to repeat without justification.

If that was the extent of the violence, one could say stop pushing for a parade and focus on other avenues to fight for rights, but the violence and discrimination is much broader, and the government's response is to tell LGBT people to basically stfu about it.

There are millions of people who support LGBT people in Russia, and probably a couple million who are queer themselves, but these people seem to represent a vastly outnumbered minority. It really does seem that it is not just their leaders, but Russians themselves who are the problem.

I have to admit that I'm going on the basis that I believe most humans are good people...even Russians. I don't know where the 74% of Russians believe that homosexuality should not be accepted comes from. Its a bogus figure or a manipulated figure by that goverment. It could even be the way the question was worded. I think the way forward would new political pressure and of course our support to any victims of government brutality. 

It's irrelevant if they are good people; good people do bad things. Sometimes good people do the worst things because they are acting on conviction. Don't know if that's the case with Russian homophobia, but 'good people' means little here.

I don't know where the 74% of Russians believe that homosexuality should not be accepted comes from.

I don't understand this comment. They come from Russia. Where does the figure come from? I cited the source: Pew Research. Methods were included in a pdf on the linked page:

Why do people like Coke anyway? It's like drinking a carbonated, carmel flavored elixer of diabetes. I always burp like a drunkard half way into drinking it and then my teeth feel like they need a thorough brushing. God, this product is the best! It's as if drinking Coke is something we do out of a cultural habit.

Someone was suggesting a boycott of various sponsors. I can sign petitions, but I don't buy products from most of the sponsors to begin with, so continued non-purchasing is not all that meaningful. I think sometimes I buy Simply Orange orange juice which is owned by Coca-cola, and my bank switched to Visa debit cards, but that's about it.

I'm not above drinking cola, mind you, but I treat it as candy more than a beverage. As I get older and spend more time working at a desk, I just cannot afford to drink the stuff save for on rare occasions.


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