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Sochi 2014

LGBT viewers guide to the Olympics: Tensions high for spectators, athletes

Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Dmitry Lovetsky,  APCross country skiers pass by the Olympic rings prior to the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.

Dmitry Lovetsky, AP
Cross country skiers pass by the Olympic rings prior to the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.

Tensions are high as the 2014 Winter Olympics prepares to get underway Thursday with figure skating and skiing events and then with the globally televised opening ceremony Friday. While there is a tremendous amount of anxiety over the possibility of a terrorist attack against the Games in Sochi, Russia, there is also considerable uncertainty around who might protest the country’s new anti-gay laws and how and when they might do so.

Beyond the expectation that some might wear rainbow pins or hats that include “P6,” a reference to the Olympic charter’s non-discrimination policy, there are hints of bands playing “YMCA” and one skater promising to “rip” into Russian President Vladimir Putin after she’s finished her competition.

There is even more uncertainty about what the Russian government will do to anyone who does protest or violate its laws by expressing some positive message about being gay.

In a conference call with reporters last week, the International Olympic Committee president, Thomas Bach, said athletes would “enjoy freedom of speech” at a press conference but they could be punished if they do so during competition or on a medal podium. But a few days later, the chief executive of the Olympic Games in Russia, Dmitry Chernyshenko, seemed to contradict that statement.

“I don’t think [athletes] are allowed by the [Olympic] Charter to express those views that are not related to the sport at the press conference room,” said Chernyshenko. “What I would call the Sochi ‘speakers’ corner’ has been organized in Sochi city so that everybody can express themselves.”

The so-called “speakers’ corner” is a cordoned off protest area six or seven miles from the site of the Olympics.

Outsports.com, a site devoted to news about LGBT athletes in both professional and amateur sports, says it’s found only seven openly gay athletes coming to the Sochi Olympics. All are women, none are American, and they represent an “an improbably low number” among the 2,500 athletes coming to the games.

The seven include three speedskaters (Canadian Anatasia Bucsis and Dutch Ireen Wust and Sanne van Kerkhof), two snowboarders (Dutch Cheryl Maas and Australian Belle Brockhoff), one Slovenian cross country skier (Barbara Jezeršek) and one Austrian ski jumper (Daniela Iraschko-Stolz, who will compete in her first Olympics, as this is the first time the Olympic Games have allowed women to compete in the sport).

“Either GLBT athletes are uniquely bad at winter sports,” wrote the Outsports, “or dozens — perhaps a hundred or more— must be competing in Sochi while in the closet.”

For U.S. television audiences interested in watching the Olympics for signs of LGBT demonstrations or visibility, there are two options: watch a condensed broadcast of the events each evening on NBC, which is covering the events; or watch live webstreams at NBCOlympics.com, keeping in mind that Sochi is nine hours ahead of U.S. east coast time.

The following is a list of specific events at which the potential for LGBT visibility is higher than most:

Thursday, Feb. 6:

Dutch lesbian Cheryl Maas will be competing in the “Ladies Slopestyle” snowboarding event today. She has a profile video, Through My Eyes, that talks about her wife and child. She has spoken in the Dutch press about her unhappiness with the IOC choosing Russia for the Olympics given its hostile laws.

Friday, Feb. 7:

Two openly gay people are part of the United States’ five-member delegation to the opening ceremony, and there seems little doubt that cameras will focus on them from time to time. They are Olympic silver medalist hockey player Caitlin Cahow and Olympic figure skating medalist Brian Boitano.

Tennis legend Billie Jean King had been scheduled to attend, but announced Wednesday that, due to the illness of her mother, she must withdraw from the presidential delegation to the opening ceremony. Cahow had been scheduled to attend the closing ceremony, but is now taking King’s place at the opening ceremony.

There are several things to watch for during the opening ceremony: Do individual athletes wear anything or do anything in the procession of athletes to identify themselves as gay or as supporting equal treatment for gay people? Will Russian President Vladimir Putin voice anything about the highly publicized controversy during his remarks to the opening ceremony?

And to what degree will NBC, which is covering the Games globally, report on the controversy?

Saturday, Feb. 8:

Speed skating starts today (6:30 a.m.) and three openly lesbian competitors are on the oval track. One of them, Canadian long-track competitor Anatasia Bucsis, who told Outsports.com, “I could never promote that message of concealing who you are with all of this going on in Russia. I’m kind of happy that I did it on my own terms.”

The other two openly lesbian speed skaters are both from the Netherlands, Ireen Wust (short track) and Sanne van Kerkhof (3000 relay). Their presence on the track may be a particularly interesting time to watch. The Washington Post reported that a Dutch brass band Kleintje Pils (“Small Beer”) “always performs at Olympic speed skating ovals” and signaled it might play the iconic gay anthem “YMCA” this year.

“We will see if we can get one or two songs into the selection, knowing that in the Netherlands it will be seen as a signal we are thinking of [gays],” said Ruud Bakker, the band’s leader.

Sunday, Feb. 16:

The Women’s Cross Snowboarding is today and Australian Belle Brockhoff, the only openly gay person on Australia’s Olympic team, has told home country papers she plans to wear a “P6” logo and make her unhappiness about the anti-gay laws in Russia known.

“The Australian Olympic Committee has been really supportive and they want me to be safe. They don’t recommend me waving a [rainbow] flag around which I won’t do,” said Brockhoff, in an interview published January 23 in the Courier-Mail. “The most I’ll do is hold up six fingers to represent Principle Six. Possibly I’ll do it on camera here or there, and maybe after the heats of my event.”

After her event, Brockhoff said she plans to speak freely about her thoughts. “After I compete, I’m willing to rip on his ass,” she said. “I’m not happy and there’s a bunch of other Olympians who are not happy either.”

Also on the 16th, the Australian Men’s Bobsled team will carry “Principle 6” logo down the track on their two-man bobsled.  Team captain Heath Spence has spoken out against discrimination of gay and lesbian athletes. He’ll be competing in both two-man and four-man sleds.

Sunday, Feb. 23:

Closing Ceremony: The five-member delegation representing the United States at the Closing Ceremony was scheduled to include Cahow, but she is now attending the opening ceremony in place of Billie Jean King. Any athlete who might want to make a show of protest could save their plans for the closing ceremony so as not to risk jeopardizing their competition and medals.

© 2014, Keen News Service. All Rights Reserved.

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65 more reader comments:

  1. let us know how it goes. still not watching it.

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 12:14am
  2. me neither...I refuse to validate their efforts

    Replied on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 12:30pm
  3. Same as that Javier Suarez. Wish I could go and protest.

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 12:23am
  4. Not for me. Boycotting it entirely.

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 12:24am
  5. 2014! & people can’t be human! I’m not watching either.

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 12:29am
  6. Boycotting.

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 12:32am
  7. I will watch it but I do hope that everyone has watched channel 4`s (UK CHANNEL) hunted and thats why I will be watching because the Russian gay community dont want a boycott. But Russia to me is coming across just like the nazi`s in both world wars.

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 12:32am
  8. Won

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 12:38am
  9. I’m not watching this travesty, but I hope there are no tragedies or attacks at this misbegotten Olympics.

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 12:43am
  10. Leave gays alone or Russia doesn’t? They need to face sanctions like Iran for that

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 12:49am
  11. The Olympics should be boycotted. Fuck Russia. Fuck Putin.

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 12:51am
  12. WILL NOT WATCH.

    Replied on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 12:51am
  13. Not Watching this year

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 12:54am
  14. so terrrible – what has been brought on the world. And so unnecessary.

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 12:56am
  15. Fuck you Vladimir Putin and your government

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 1:17am
  16. I wont be watching

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 1:20am
  17. They might be a hell of a lot more tense when one of the black widows decides to pay Solci a visit.

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 1:41am
  18. Not watching

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 2:04am
  19. Boycott Russia and the Olympics!

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 2:16am
  20. I agree with Paul Burn. I think that we owe it to anyone anywhere and at any time to be a witness. Yes, we are already aware of what’s going on over there. I don’t think we should turn our heads now. I don’t think we should be giving money to Putin. I believe that supporting our LGBT brothers and sisters everywhere is good. And some of them are athletes. I think it is good that we are there right now but not for the same reasons that Putin would believe.

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 2:23am
  21. I refuse to watch any of It! Especially with the Poor Preparation Effort the Russian Nation has put to this!!! And They Think they can hold such event???? What a JOKE!

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 2:24am
  22. why is there guide, we shouldn’t watch it

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 2:24am
  23. Mike Dunafon, the Libertarian mayor of Glendale, is currently considering running for Governor. He’s promising to run as an “unaffiliated, independent, standalone candidate.” Let’s see this article http://kdvr.com/2014/02/04/libertarian-shotgun-willies-boss-considering-gubernatorial-bid/ and like him on Facebook guys!!!

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 2:29am
  24. Boycotting here and I usually watch.

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 2:37am
  25. Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 2:53am
  26. This gay guy is boycotting…good luck to the US athletes

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 3:09am
  27. I certainly won’t be watching

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 3:19am
  28. Should we even be watching it? I think it would depress me and I certainly will be taking note of which corporations are sponsoring this hatefest.

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 3:23am
  29. Boycott the Games !! Switch off !! Change channels !! Watch a DVD !!

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 3:50am
  30. #BOYCOTTSOCHI

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 4:02am
  31. My wife and will not be watching. We’re boycotting!

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 4:09am
  32. Boycott them!

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 4:44am
  33. Wait… so if a mass number of people of different countries get arrested or hurt by russian officials &/or citizens… would that be an act of aggression posed to other countries?
    If so, it would be the duty of russia to release or compensate those victimized, yes? Or the possibility of going up in arms?
    Either or, russia needs to pick their battles, and oppressing homosexuals is not one they would win.

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 5:56am
  34. Boycott Boycott Boycott! Ruck Fussia, Puck Futin, GO GAY RIGHTS!!!!

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 5:57am
  35. Not watching, not interested. Seriously, I can’t believe you’re giving these Olympics any attention at all. Disappointed.

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 6:53am
  36. Hope that there is a huge number of people who won’t watch the winter games!

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 8:37am
  37. Bigots are all over everywhere!

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 8:46am
  38. Not watching it. Russia is a horrible country where human rights are being violated at every turn, and this is just a PR stunt for a reprehensible autocrat.

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 9:32am
  39. Вот такая Олимпиада. Их убили в одном Сочи 2014.Сколько убьют к ЧМ-18 по футболу в городах участниках? ЛЮДИ, ВЫ ЗВЕРИ
    https://twitter.com/Ramsipoputal/status/431343295835295745/photo/1/large

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 9:33am
  40. Not watching but wishing Team America success.

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 10:27am
  41. Any self respecting gay would boycott Olympics.

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 10:52am
  42. Will not be watching!

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 10:57am
  43. How about not watching at all?

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 11:22am
  44. Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 11:23am
  45. I never watch Olympics. I don’t like sports. Not against sports. They just bore me. I like figure skating but I rarely watch it. And I wish the best for the athletes and that they’re safe, but I support the boycott of anything coming from Russia.

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 12:38pm
  46. I will not be watching it is a distraction from more important issues and I hate sports anyway. Also I do not condone what Russia is doing to stray dogs and the lgbtquai community.

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 12:50pm
  47. I for 1 will not be watching the olympics EVER again… My man has also vowed never to watch the Olympics again! Disgusting exploitation of money anyway and there is no honor or pride in that!

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 1:41pm
  48. Fuck Russia and Fuck the Olympics!

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 3:10pm
  49. Do not purchase any product MADE IN RUSSIA…Do not visit Russia…until…until…until…Putin begins to honor, respect Human Dignity…and…and…and…Gay Men…

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 3:21pm
  50. Not watching

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 4:24pm
  51. no winter Olympics will be on in our house, families homes, and many friends. why watch when others suffer. viewership will be down big time i think.

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 6:41pm
  52. Not Watching in this household!!! None of it…

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 10:04pm
  53. GAY RAINBOW COLORED RINGS!!

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 10:06pm
  54. Me give no flying fuck about the Olympics!

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 10:06pm
  55. Passing on watching it

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 10:11pm
  56. Ehh…im not really into the whole gay community thing cuz im transgender but, i wouldnt watch anything that discrimnates. Football season is where its at anyway.

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 10:14pm
  57. I’m watching and loving it! I’m supporting the U.S.A!!! I’m putting my political opinion on the back burner for now!

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 10:16pm
  58. Not watching it here which is a first for me but I rather stand up for what I believe and hope gay Russians will get the love we all deserve

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 10:25pm
  59. Not watching. But, I loveeeee how they had t.a.t.u perform for the opening ceremonies. Idiots!

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 10:33pm
  60. the lgbtq is just as bad as jessie jackson anything for headlines you suck your a bunch of hate baiting wack jobs I quit you post nothing postive at all

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 10:35pm
  61. thanks – I’m watching not letting Putin’s hate ruin it for me.

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 10:44pm
  62. Not interested in watching any bit of it.

    Posted on Sunday, February 9, 2014 at 1:28am
  63. Missed for a reason.

    Posted on Sunday, February 9, 2014 at 1:47am
  64. nope

    Posted on Sunday, February 9, 2014 at 2:23am
  65. The Olympics aren’t owned by Russia and not watching won’t stop Putin from doing horrible things. I will watch, and enjoy every medal gay friendly countries win over anti-gay ones. You don’t ignore the/bad guys. You beat the bad guys.

    Posted on Sunday, February 9, 2014 at 2:28am