Human rights, gay rights and olympic games: at times a toxic mixture. This time in Sochi.

The world or at least the LGBT world is in turmoil over Russia’s homophobic & biphobic legislation and two UK Members of Parliament have encouraged both fans & athletes to protest against Russia’s laws by putting LGBT symbols on display.

Swedish athlete Emma Tregaro had painted her fingernails in the typical rainbow colours to join the protest against Russia’s legislation. The only disadvantage is that the head of the Swedish Olympic Committee Stefan Lindeberg has reminded Emma Tregaro that such a display of colours (on her fingernails!) was unacceptable. Mr Lindeberg was backed up by the Olympic International Committee which called for all athletes to obey local laws and remembered all athletes that the promotion of a political cause is prohibited and so may lead to disqualification.

This is not the first time that the Olympic games have been accompanied by political controversies. The olympic Games in the Beijing People’s Republic of China have also been accompanied by a discussion of PR China’s routine press censorship and lack of Freedom of Speech which led some athletes to boycott the opening ceremony in Beijing (among those openly lesbian épée fencer  Imke Duplitzer from Germany).

But there’s something else around the Beijing summer olympics which I now find more noteworthy: the decision of the Olympic Committee to allow a female Saudi athlete to wear a hijab (headscarf) during the judo competition despite the fact that the judo federation had previously banned headscarves for the increased risk of injury during tournament. In this case the International Olympic Committee didn’t fear that a typical Islamic piece of clothing worn by an athlete from a country where politics mean religion and religion means politics may come across as a political statement. In addition it was Saudi officials who threatened that no Saudi women athlete would be allowed to compete in the Olympics should the athletes not be “allowed” to adhere to the politically mandated and vigorously enforced Saudi dress code. (I’m specifically writing “Saudi” here as no other Muslim majority country felt the need insist a change in official dress code push through their own laws).

So the summary is: painted fingernails on a Swedish athlete constitutes a unacceptable advertisement for a political cause (which is better described as freedom of expression than LGBT-rights per se) despite the fact that a powerful camera zoom is required to spot this “advertisement” on the other hand political statements to Saudi-Arabian law which violate human rights and which also raise security concerns for all judo athletes involved (and which can seen without any zoom) are compatible with the no political cause advertisement policy.

Am I the only one who spots a double standard? But at least I’ve a suggestion for all athletes who want to voice their pro-LGBT stance: just don a headscarf in rainbow colours and you should be fine.

But sarcasm aside: I’ve found out that the German team is going to wear rainbow colours uniforms (which are highly unesthetic) to the Games. So at least one team appears to have understood the Olympic Committee’s rules.

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About Kim Karlstein

Member of the gay conspiracy in one of the regional offices in the UK. The conspiracy you lately constantly heard about. Other than plotting how to take over world I have fairly normal hobbies. My gravatar is taken with thanks from wikimedia commons.
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