Friday, August 16, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Sochi Countdown -- 25 Weeks to the Olympiad in the North Caucasus

Note:  This is my 25th special Window on Eurasia about the meaning and impact of the planned Olympiad on the nations in the surrounding region.  These WOEs, which will appear each Friday over the coming year, will not aim at being comprehensive but rather will consist of a series bullet points about such developments.  I would like to invite anyone with special knowlege or information about this subject to send me references to the materials involved.  My email address is  Allow me to express my thanks to all those who already have. Paul Goble

Senior IOC Member Says Moscow Will Lose Games If It Doesn’t Live Up to Olympic Charter. If the Russian authorities refuse to meet their commitments to the provisions of the Olympic Charter including a ban on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, Gerhard Heiberg of the IOC says, then Moscow could see the games moved or postponed.  “We cannot start giving in,” he says. “Either they accept or maybe we go somerwhere else if worse come to worse” ( C.M Wu, another IOC leader says that Moscow knows “we are not joking” about those possibilities (

IOC Chief Says Moscow Must Clarify Its Law. Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee, says his group has been reassured by Moscow’s promises but “We are waiting for the clarifications before having the final judgment on these reassurances … The Olympic Charter is clear."A sport is a human right and it should be available to all, regardless of race, sex or sexual orientation."As far as the freedom of expression is concerned, of course, this is something that is important.But we cannot make a comment on the law until the clarifications have been received." He added that it seems to be a problem of translation and that “we don’t think it is a fundamental issue” (  and

Russia’s Anti-Gay Law ‘Ambiguous for a Reason.’  Russia’s anti-gay propaganda is “ambiguous for a reason:” It allows officials and individual Russians to interpret it according to their own lights, according to a Western legal analysis.  That same analysis points out that the Russian government itself earlier opposed such legislation because of this vagueness but its opposition in 2004 and 2006 “came at a time when the Kremlin cared about Russia’s international reputation. Now it appears to care only about nontraditional sex” (

Russian Foreign Ministry Dismisses Criticism of Anti-Gay Law.  Konstantin Dolgov, the special ambassador for human rights, says that criticism of Russia’s legislation “is absolutely invalid and groundless” because it acts as if a measure designed to protect children is in fact a measure to oppress members of sexual minorities. “We are fulfilling our obligations, but our critics attempt to accuse us of violating some obligations that don’t exist” ( ).

Russian Interior Ministry Says Law Will Be Enforced but Sochi Visitors Who Don’t Demonstrate Won’t Have Problems.  The MVD says that the Russian law that bans “homosexual propaganda” to young people will be enforced in Sochi just as it is everywhere in Russia but that those competitors and fans who may be LGBT but who do not engage in political demonstrations of that will not be subject to any legal actions ( Aleksandr Zhukov, head of Russia’s National Olympic Committee, expands on this: “If a person doesn’t try to impose his or her views in presence of children, sanctions can’t be taken against this person. Gay people can take part freely in the competitions and other Olympic events and don’t worry for their safety” (

Moscow’s Promise Not to Enforce Anti-Gay Propaganda Law at Sochi Unfair, Dangerous.  Aleksey Naryshkin, an Ekho Moskvy journalist, says that promises by officials not to enforce a Russian law prohibiting gas propaganda to young people are dangerous because they smack of selective prosecution and raise questions why a law under which Russian citizens have to live won’t be applied to foreigners (

Moving Olympics Would Be Difficult But Not Impossible. Officials in Salt Lake City and Vancouver say that moving the Olympics to their cities would not be impossible but it would be very difficult. Meanwhile, some analysts are talking about shifting them to South Korea which has continued to build venues even after it was passed over by the IOC (,,

Russian TV Official Says Russia’s Anti-Gay Laws Don’t Go Far Enough.  Dmitry Kisilyev, deputy director general of Russian State Television and Radio, says that “just imposing fines on gays for homosexual propaganda among teenagers is not enough. They should be banned from donating blood, sperm. And their hearts, in case of the automobile accident, should be buried in the ground or burned as unsuitable for the continuation of life” (

Will CIS Countries Follow Russia on Anti-Gay Front?  This week, the Armenian interior ministry posted draft legislation that would impose the same penalties on “gay propaganda” that the Russian law does, but after protests, Yerevan officials took the post offline (

US, UK, Canadian Leaders Reject a Boycott.  The US president and the prime ministers of Great Britain and Canada reject calls for a boycott of the Sochi Games. German officials agree, and French officials say it is too soon to make a final determination (

Russians Asked Why US and UK Won’t Boycott Sochi Games.  The site has asked its visitors to specify why the leaders of the United States and the United Kingdom won’t boycott the Sochi Olympiad. Is this “a sign of good sense and an unwillingness to remain outside global sports,” “a sign that Western leaders recognize that pressure on Russia won’t work,” “a sign of weakness and the absence of unity in the Western elites,” or “a sign of secret homophobia”? (

Athletes Should Go to Sochi But Political Leaders Should Not, German Analyst Says. Alexander Rahr, a leading German foreign policy specialist, says that LGBT athletes should compete at Sochi but that Russia’s anti-gay laws and practices should keep political leaders from attending (

NBC Promises Its Gay and Lesbian Employees They’ll Be Safe in Sochi.  NBC, which is covering the game, has set a memorandum to its employees saying that the company is opposed to Russia’s anti-gay propaganda and that the company “will do everything possible to protect the rights, safety and well-being of our employees” (

NBC Says Advertisers Not Pulling Out.  The network that expects to make 800 million US dollars for covering the Sochi Games says that advertisers are not pullin gout and that many of them are treating the controversy over Russia’s anti-gay laws as “no different than the outcry over China’s human rights record during the 2008  Summer Olympics in Beijing” (

Sochi Competitors Should Hold Hands Regardless of Their Sexual Orientation.  To show support for Russia’s LGBT community and opposition to Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law, competitors at the Games should hold hands, something that could become an iconic image and help the LGBTs of Russia to secure their rights (

Hockey Should Take the Lead in Sochi in Demonstrating Against Anti-Gay Laws. Andrei Markovits, a professor at the University of Michigan, says the world cannot remain silent about “the viciously homophobic legislation and policies pursued by the Putin government and, alas, its consideratable support among important institutions such as the Russian Orthodox Church as well as in public opinion.”  To counter that, he says, the most important hockey powers, most of whose players are in the NHL, should take the lead in demonstrating against Moscow’s anti-gay policies (

Sochi Games Working Against Russia and Putin, ‘Novaya’ Commentator Says.  Andrey Kolesnikov writes in Moscow’s “Novaya gazeta” that the Sochi Games which were supposed to give a boost to Russia’s fortunes and those of its president are in fact having just the opposite effect (

Two Earthquakes Hit Sochi Region. Earthquakes measuring 3.5 and 3.3 on the Richter Scale hit just outside of Sochi, shaking buildings but leaving no casualties and doing no observable damage (

Rights Activists Call on Proctor & Gamble to Withdraw as Sochi Sponsor.  Rights activists in Ohio are circulating an online petition ( calling on the Cincinnati-based company to withdraw it sponsorship of the Olympiad and end all its advertising in Russia. P&G is thought to be the largest Western advertiser in the Russian Federation at the present time (

Coca-Cola, Pressed on Its Sponsorship of Sochi Games, Defends Gay Rights. Facing calls to withdraw its sponsorship of the Sochi Olympiad because of Moscow’s anti-gay propaganda law, the Coca-Cola company issues a statement saying that “As one of the world’s most inclusive brands, we value and celebrate diversity.  We have long been a strong supporter of the LGBT community and have advocated for inclusion and diversity through both our policies and practices. We do not condone human rights abuses, intolerance or discrimination of any kind anywhere in the world. As a sponsor since 1928, we believe the Olympic Games are a force for good that unite people through a common interest in sports, and we have seen firsthand the positive impact and long-lasting legacy they leave on every community that has been a host. 
We support the ideals of the Olympics and are proud to continue our role in helping to make the Olympics a memorable experience for athletes, fans and communities all around the world” (

Calls to Boycott Olympiads Nothing New, But Human Rights Concerns as a Reason Are.  For most of the modern era, someone has wanted to boycott a particular Olympiad, but as points out, “there has rarely been talk of boycotting the Olympic Games over human rights issues,” even when the competitions were in places like Nazi Germany or China which violated human rights ( A Human Rights Watch official noted that “It's fair to say that Russia is going to give the Beijing Olympics a run for the money on human rights abuses, particularly the crackdown on the LGBT community and civil society," Worden said in a phone interview.This will be the first homophobic Olympics, certainly. That’s without precedent" (

US Senator Calls for All Competitors at Sochi to March Under Gay Flag.  Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) says that Vladimir Putin is “a schoolyard bully” and that when athletes march into the Sochi Olympiad, “all the countries should wave the multicolored flag for gay rights.  That would be pretty embarrassing for Putin let our athletes participate and still take a stand” (

NY Times Condemns Anti-Gay Violence in Russia. “Despite the breathtaking wealth and vibrant culture in the metropolises of Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia remains a country where discrimination and even violence against gay people are widely tolerated,” the American newspaper of record says. “Few gay people in Russia openly acknowledge their sexual orientation, and those who do are often harassed. When some gay people protested the propaganda law by kissing outside the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, police officers stood by and watched as the demonstrators were doused with water and beaten by anti-gay and religious supporters of the bill. An overwhelming 88% of Russians support the gay-propaganda ban, according to a survey conducted in June by the All-Russian Public Opinion Center” (

Washington Post Says Russia as Hostile to Gays as Arab Countries. In an editorial, the Washington Post says that “in the contest for the most medieval level of intolerance, the Russian Federation is giving Saudi Arabia a run for its money. While Russia and the Soviet Union before it have generally been hostile to gay people, the recent intensity of Mr. Putin’s war is part and parcel of his lapse into xenophobia, religious chauvinism and general intolerance as the urban middle class increasingly questions the legitimacy of his authoritarian rule” (

FIFA asks Moscow for Clarification on Anti-Gay Law…  The international football association, whose teams are scheduled to compete in Russia for the 2018 World Cup has formally asked the Russian government for “clarification and more details” about the anti-gay propaganda law, an indication that this issue is not going to go away even after February 2014 (

… But Russian Official Says Gays like Nazis Must Not Be Allowed to Demonstate. Aleksey Sorokin, Russia’s World Cup chief, says that international athletic competition are “not a stage for various views, not for the Nazis andnot for any other ways of life. Would you like a World Cup were naked people are running around displaying their homosexuality? The answer to that is quite obvious” ( 

Sochi Gay Group  Named Grand Marshal of California Pride Parade.  Organizers of the Great Palm Springs Pride organization have named Sochi Pride 2014 the grand marshal o its 27th annual Pride Parade “to demonstrate solidarity with the LGBT community in Russia and raise awareness of the increasing anti-gay atmosphere of discrimination and harassment of the LGBT community in the Russian Federation” and to put pressure on Moscow to repeal the law before the Sochi Games (

Obama Says a Russian Team Without Gays or Lesbians Likely to Be ‘Weaker.’  US President Obama says that "One of the things I'm really looking forward to is maybe some gay and lesbian athletes bringing home the gold or silver or bronze, which I think would go a long way in rejecting the kinds of attitudes that we're seeing here. "If Russia doesn't have gay or lesbian athletes, then that would probably make their team weaker" (

Many Upset with Obama Administration’s Failure to Take Tougher Stand on Sochi.  Barb Hamp Weicksel writes on the portal that she’s “like the USA to make some sort of statement about human rights and dignity and respect for all people – everywhere” because at Sochi “It’s not only the gay and lesbian athletes who could be in danger – it’s anyone who supports them by voice or the wearing of Pride pins or rainbow flags or perhaps even just touching them or hugging them. Did Hitler’s Germany mean nothing? Have we learned nothing from the Olympics that were hosted by the Nazis? The questions need to be asked:If it were blacks or Christians being targeted and beaten and killed, would the USA and Britain and all the other countries be a little more outraged? Would our President then believe it “appropriate” to boycott? I don’t know. I’m asking.But, if we didn’t go – and we didn’t give them any money - that would most certainly hurt them and Putin’s ego, which is larger than Russia itself” (

London Theater to Feature Play on Sochi to Highlight Opposition to Russia’s Anti-Gay Laws. A theater in the British capital has commissioined Tess Berry-Hart to write a protest play called “Sochi 2014” for the King’s Head theater in Islington to help mobilize further opposition to Russian laws and actions against LGBTs in the run up to the Sochi Olympics (

IOC Should Ban Russia from Competing at Sochi, Commentator Says.  Athletes representing countries which do not have laws like Russia’s “anti-gay propaganda” measure should be allowed to take part in the Sochi Games, Cyd Zeigler says, but the IOS should consider making “a real statement” by banning Russian athletes from taking competing there (

Nuclear Waste Near Sochi May Constitute a Health Hazard.  Nuclear waste sites near Sochi left over from Soviet times may pose health risks to competitors and visitors, experts say (

Lukin Says Calls for Sochi Boycott, Comparisons with Nazi Germany Anger Him.  Vladimir Lukin, Russia’s human rights ombudsman, says that he is surprised and angered by calls to boycott Sochi especially because of the comparisons some are drawing between Russia today and Nazi Germany. Russian Jewish leaders echo that position (

Swedish Gay Activist Demands World Not Ignore LGBT Demands as It Did in 1936.  Gays in Europe and the West called on the world to boycott the 1936 Berlin Games because of Hitler’s anti-homosexual policies, but “the hetero majority in Europe ignored” those demand, Alexander Bard says.  “Let us not repeat this error iin 2014 and not offer to yet another dictator another glamorous platform for promoting the ideology of hatred” (

1936 Experience Not Encouraging, US Commentator Says. Joe Quigley, a Cape Cod-based writer, notes that the way in which the debate about a possible boycott of the 1936 Berlin games took place is not encouraging. He cites the US Holocaust Museum to the effect that “The debate over whether the United States should boycott the games pitted Avery Brundage, who was president of the United States Olympic Committee, against boycott spokesman Jeremiah Mahoney. Some evidence recently has been uncovered by the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles that Brundage was anything but unbiased on this issue: his company had been offered contracts by the German government to build embassies and consulates in the United States.
No such information ever came to light in the public debate, which ran along these lines: Opponents of the boycott said ‘If we cancel, we would not give the athletes an opportunity to compete and would look as if the United States were backing out of a commitment.’ Those favoring the boycott said that Hitler's racist and anti-Semitic policies were diametrically opposed to the Olympic spirit. To go would hand Hitler a propaganda victory by conferring upon him the tacit approval of the rest of the world.” “Now as then,” Quigley continues, “it is about money. NBC has sponsors paying them big bucks for air time. These are the major sponsors. If the United States as a country chooses not to boycott the Olympics or work to move them elsewhere, perhaps those who feel something should be done can avoid products by these companies as much as possible” (

Moscow Calls for Expedited Prosecutions of Those Who Misuse Olympic Brand.  Those who produce items with the Olympic seal but without the approval of the Russian Olympic Committee should be prosecuted as quickly as possible, the Federal nti-Monopoly Service Says (

California Politicians Urge State’s Pension Fund to Disinvest in Russia. Because of Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law and in order to put pressure on Moscow to overturn that measure before the Sochi Olympiad, two senators in the California state legislature have urged the state’s pension fund to pull out of Russia its 1.4 billion US dollars in investments there ( and

Russia’s Anti-Gay Law Overshadowing Other Reasons for Boycotting Sochi, US Academic Says.  Walt Richmond, an American specialist on the North Caucasus, says that the entirely legitimate concerns of many about Russia’s horrific anti-gay laws and practices should not lead people to ignore other reasons for boycotting the games and that focusing only on how athletes and fans will be treated should not lead anyone to ignore how Russians will be treated under this and other laws (

Berlin Worried Chechens in Germany May Be Planning Terrorist Attacks for Sochi.  Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herman says that German security services are concerned that some of the Chechens now living in Germany may be involved in plotting a terrorist attack against Sochi at the time of the Olympics (

Demonstrations Against Russia’s Anti-Gay Laws Around the World. Protest meetings in the US, UK, Canada, Sweden, Israel and elsewhere took place over the weekend with many carrying signs equating Putin with Hitler and demanding a boycott of the Sochi Olympics (,

Railway Construction near Sochi Destroying Forests.  Ecological Watch on the North Caucasus says that firms building railways leading to Sochi are destroying environmentally sensitive forests by their thoughtless cutting down of enormous numbers of trees (

Russian Missile Factory Making Olympic Torches.  A factory which normally produces ballistic missiles for the Russian government is manufacturing the 14,000 torches which will carry the Olympic flame across Russia. Some have noticed that they are shaped like the letter “R” as shown on Russian vodka etiquettes (

Human Waste Again Flowing Into Sochi Rivers.  Badly constructed sewage lines mean that human wastes are again flowing into open waters in Sochi, generating a bad smell and threatening the health of those who live nearby ( and

Not Having a Sochi Development Plan is a Plan, Critic Says.  For most of its history, Sochi developed according to a plan, but with the push to develop venues for the Olympics, Sergey Kolko says, there is no unified plan, although he concedes that the absence of a plan is a plan of its own kind (

Russian TV Official Says Russia’s Anti-Gay Laws Don’t Go Far Enough.  Dmitry Kisilyev, deputy director general of Russian State Television and Radio, says that “just imposing fines on gays for homosexual propaganda among teenagers is not enough. They should be banned from donating blood, sperm. And their hearts, in case of the automobile accident, should be buried in the ground or burned as unsuitable for the continuation of life” (

No comments:

Post a Comment