Russia’s new law banning gay “propaganda” could end up tarnishing the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, two-time Olympic gold-medal winner Seth Wescott said, becoming the latest Western voice to condemn the law.
Wescott criticized the International Olympic Committee on Wednesday for selecting Sochi to host the 2014 games, saying the city hadn’t proven it had the ability to hold the event. The new Russian law that prohibits the promotion of “nontraditional” sexual relations could further sully the completion, he said.
“The human rights stuff that’s going on, there’s a potential for it to be an incredibly negatively-overshadowed Olympics,” he told The Associated Press.
Wescott, 37, said he has sufficiently recovered since undergoing knee surgery in April to attempt to qualify for the upcoming Olympics during races in December and January.
In an interview, Wescott and Alex Tuttle, another Olympic snowboard cross hopeful from Carrabassett Valley, said Sochi didn’t appear to be prepared for the Olympics when they visited there last February, and that they’re concerned there will be a lack of snow for snowboard events.
The buildup to the Feb. 7-23 games has also been overshadowed by the Western backlash to the gay-rights law, which has been denounced by activists and President Barack Obama.
The IOC and the Sochi Olympics media office didn’t immediately respond to emails seeking comment.
The IOC has said athletes can express themselves before the Olympics and outside the games’ venues, but that it doesn’t want the games themselves used as a platform for demonstrations.
Wescott noted that he has female friends in snowboarding who are lesbians.
“They’re wonderful human beings, and I think for them to be discriminated against is a crime,” he said. “They should be able to be who they are and compete proudly. They represent our country incredibly well and they don’t need to be the object of that kind of criticism and negativity.”
On July 17th, the International Olympic Committee issued a statement, acknowledging that the newly-enacted law is contradictory to its policy of non-discrimination and pledging to “work to ensure that the Games can take place without discrimination against athletes, officials, spectators and the media.” However, the IOC recognized that it is not equipped to address the issue fully, stating “[w]ider political issues in the country are best dealt with by other international organizations more suited to this endeavor.” (WIndy City Times)
Let us hope that if the games go froward in Sochi, that indeed athletes will have the courage to use the games, despite the rules, as a forum to protest. After all has the IOC themselves not broken so called rules by going ahead in Sochi?