German President Will Boycott Sochi Olympics

By Sunnivie Brydum

Originally published on Advocate.com December 08 2013 3:16 PM ET

Germany's president will not attend the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, due to the host country's violations of human rights, reports the Guardian.

Joachim Gauck, who has held the primarily ceremonial title of president since March 2012, has thus far declined any visits to Russia during his tenure, and informed the Kremlin last week that he will not attend the 2014 Winter Olympics, to be hosted in the southern city of Sochi in February 2014. 

Gauck is a former Lutheran pastor who has been vocally critical of Russia's "deficit of rule of law" and "air of imperialism" since the country passed its nationwide ban on so-called gay propaganda, and continues to violently oppress dissent — even passing a law earlier this year that makes it illegal to insult the feelings of a religious person. 

The Guardian reports that Gauck is the first major political figure to publicly boycott the Sochi Olympics, while also noting that German chancellor Angela Merkel — the acting head of German government whose position is equivalent to that of a prime minister — has ruled out a boycott, agreeing with British Prime Minister David Cameron that the country's embattled LGBT population would be better served by the presence of supportive political figures, rather than their absence. 

Since the nationwide ban on "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" in areas visible to minors took effect in July, LGBT Russians and visitors have been arrested, beaten, and harassed with increasing frequency under the state-sanctioned homophobia. In advance of Russia's hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics, President Vladimir Putin and numerous Olympic officials have promised that LGBT athletes and spectators will be safe during the Games. The International Olympic Committee has said it is "completely satisfied" with those vague promises from Russian Olympic officials that there will be "no discrimination of any kind."