Russian Sports Minister Wants LGBT Activists to 'Calm Down'

Reversing course on comments he made last week, Vitaly Mutko now says LGBT athletes and spectators can rest assured that 'all the rights will be protected' at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi

BY Sunnivie Brydum

August 08 2013 2:00 PM ET

Just a week after saying that any Olympic athlete or visitor who "propagandizes" about LGBT identity while at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, will be "held accountable," the Russian sports minister now says that international critics of the country's antigay laws should "calm down." 

"Rest assured that all the athletes and all the sports organizations should be relaxed," Vitaly Mutko said today, according to the Associated Press. He promised that "all rights will be protected."

Today's comments are in direct contrast to Mutko's comments on August 1, when he responded to international pressure upon the International Olympic Committee to challenge Russia's ban on so-called "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations." 

"No one is forbidding an athlete with nontraditional sexual orientation from coming to Sochi," Mutko told Russian sports outlet R-Sport last week. "But if he goes onto the street and starts propagandizing it, then of course he will be held accountable." 

Since Russian president Vladimir Putin signed the ban into law in June, LGBT Russians and visitors have been beaten, harassed, and jailed for gathering, unfurling rainbow flags, or discussing LGBT identity. 

The International Olympic Committee previously said it had received assurances from Russian officials that LGBT athletes would be exempt from the law, which imposes fines and possible jail time for anyone speaking out about LGBT identities. Vitaly Milonov, a sponsor of the antigay legislation from St. Petersburg, said last month that the government doesn't have the authority to suspend the law during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Tags: Sports

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