A Practical Way To Protest the Sochi Olympics

Posted on December 2, 2013 at 2:40 PM

By Dennis Stone

Earlier this year Russia passed virulently anti-gay laws that led to a sharp rise in anti-gay violence. Since then, gay activists have been calling for the Winter Olympics in Sochi, occurring in February 2014, to be boycotted or moved. I supported the idea of moving them in principle, but there was never any chance that either a boycott or a move would happen. Since that reality has become apparent to everyone the next move was to try to find a way to protest, and make our displeasure known to the Russians and the world. Many athletes and others going to Sochi would like to help, but the Olympic committee has firm prohibitions against any political displays (in principle a necessary restriction), and any overt gay support could run afoul of the Russian laws.

Two organizations – “All Out” and “Athlete Ally” – have come up with an ingenious way around the roadblocks. Their plan is based around “Principle 6” in the Olympic Charter, which says that discrimination of any kind is incompatible with the Olympic spirit. The Olympic Committee has acknowledged that the principle includes sexual orientation, but they have yet to press the Russian government on it.

The Principle 6 movement includes merchandise – t-shirts, hats, hoodies, etc. – emblazoned with a logo of Principle 6 and the following version of the language in the Olympic Charter: “Sport does not discriminate on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise.” The Olympic Committee can’t cite anyone for displaying a part of their own charter, and the absence of the word gay means the sentence doesn’t violate Russian laws. However, the intent is that the logo and sentence will become a symbol of gay equality, a de facto rainbow flag.

Australian snowboader Belle Brockhoff

The merchandise is on sale from American Apparel beginning today, and will be available in stores in January. The movement is supported by a vast array of athletes, including current Olympians Blake Skjellerup and Belle Brockhoff (pictured), the latter of whom came out as lesbian in August and will be the face of the project. Other athletes involved include Martina Navratilova, Greg Louganis, Andy Roddick, Chris Kluwe, Robbie Rogers, Jason Collins, and Steve Nash, among many others. After costs are taken care of, proceeds will go to benefit LBGT groups in Russia.

It will be interesting to see where this goes, and how visible the movement will be in Sochi and elsewhere. There is enough desire among a large number of people to do something in this situation that I’m hopeful it will have some impact, even if it’s mostly symbolic.

Here is a link to the Principle 6 website.

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