COLUMBUS, Ohio — Organizers of the 2014 Gay Games will give viewers of tonight’s Winter Olympics opening ceremonies a subtle reminder of the anti-LGBT atmosphere in Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
Thirty-second commercials for the Gay Games are set to air during NBC’s telecast in Columbus, Dayton and Toledo, Ohio; Buffalo, N.Y.; and the host cities of Cleveland and Akron.
The Gay Games, an international event that takes place every four years, are scheduled for Aug. 9-16 in Cleveland and Akron. About 10,000 competitors and another 20,000 spectators are expected from around the world.
“These are great times we live in – exciting, complicated, extraordinary times,” a narrator says as the commercial begins with scenes of Gay Games medals, athletes, welcoming residents of northeastern Ohio and Cleveland’s annual Pride festival.
“And while the rest of the world tries to decide what its legacy will be, here in the United States we have a running start. This summer, the most inclusive sporting event in the world will take place in Ohio.”
The commercial ends with Gay Games information and a shot of Cleveland’s Terminal Tower lit in rainbow-flag colors.
“It’s our time,” the narrator says. “The world is watching.”
Gay Games spokeswoman Ann Gynn said organizers’ goal is to offer a contrast – “not in protest” – to the event taking place in Russia, where a national law adopted in 2013 forbids practically any mention of LGBT people or issues and has fueled a wave of brutality aimed at LGBT Russians.
In the Russian city of Bryansk, a 14-year-old girl was accused of violating the gay “propaganda” law because she was out to her 9th-grade classmates. Authorities dropped charges this week.
Article continues belowThe International Olympics Committee, meanwhile, has chastised international leaders who have criticized Russia’s law, and it has admonished athletes not to speak out while the Olympics are taking place.
The Gay Games aren’t limited to LGBT competitors. Many competitions are broken down by skill or age levels. Among the 36 events are summer and winter Olympics staples such as track and field, swimming and diving, figure skating and ice hockey, as well as darts, softball and dance.
“We want Ohioans and others in U.S. to be proud that the world’s most inclusive sporting event will be here this August with the Gay Games in Cleveland and Akron,” Gynn said.
Ohio organizers and the Russian LGBT Sport Federation are working together to help 140 Russians obtain travel visas and make arrangements to compete at the Gay Games this summer.