Russian LGBT Network: ‘Don’t boycott 2014 Winter Olympics — boycott homophobia!’

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An organisation representing LGBT people in Russia has announced it’s opposed to a boycott of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics – because they say participation is an important way of highlighting injustice.

Over the past week members of the LGBT community in Britain and around the world have urged for a boycott of products from Russia – most notably vodka – in order to highlight the deteriorating legal and security situation of LGBT in the country.

The 2014 Winter Olympics takes place in the Russian city of Sochi next year.

Calls in the US for a boycott of the Games began last month – spearheaded by RUSA LGBT, an American group representing LGBT Russians living in the US.

A petition urging the UK Government to strongly advise the British Olympic Association to boycott the Winter Olympics has attracted more than 9,200 signatures.

If the petition reaches 10,000 signatures the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will have to issue a formal response.

Meanwhile other LGBT campaigners such as Russia’s Nikolai Alekseev, along with gay US former Olympic diver Greg Louganis believe a boycott is counter-productive.

The Russian LGBT Network shares the same view and has released the following statement on its website:

“The Russian LGBT Network applauds the actions of individuals and organisations who address the escalating official and societal homophobia in Russia, and we are with them in the commitment to the protection of the rights and freedoms of LGBT people and allies. Numerous initiatives in regards the 2014 Winter Olympics are successfully garnering support worldwide, with the centrepiece of the debate being the pro- / counter-boycott considerations. We would like to join the momentum and share our vision.

“While we value diversity in approaches and welcome all efforts that forward justice and equality, we will contribute the work of the LGBT Network to the promotion of proactive participation in the Games instead of a boycott.

“We believe that calls for the spectators to boycott Sochi, for the Olympians to retreat from competition, and for governments, companies, and national Olympic committees to withdraw from the event risk to transform the powerful potential of the Games in a less powerful gesture that would prevent the rest of the world from joining LGBT people, their families and allies in Russia in solidarity and taking a firm stance against the disgraceful human rights record in this country.

“In retrospect, the record of the Olympic boycotts is not utterly promising in regards the potential to bring a change; look at the 1980 boycott of the Moscow Olympics, the 1984 ‘retaliation’ boycott of the LA Games, or at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. What is remembered from 1968 is neither the number nor the names of those who boycotted the Games, but the ‘human rights salute’ by Tommie Smith and John Carlos who rose black-gloved fists and bowed their heads on the victory stand as a sign of resistance to racial injustice and solidarity with everyone who fought for equality and human rights.

“The Olympic Games are a unique and powerful occasion for individuals, organisations, diplomatic missions, and governments to come together and voice, in tune with the Olympic ideals, the ideas of human rights, freedoms, equality and justice – regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Participation and attendance of the Games in Sochi will not indicate endorsement of injustice and discrimination; they will only if they are silent. We hope to join forces and succeed in raising everyone’s voices for LGBT equality in Russia and elsewhere. We hope that together with those who share this vision, we will succeed in sending the strongest message possible by involving athletes, diplomats, sponsors, and spectators to show up and speak up, proclaiming equality in most compelling ways.”

The statement added: “Do not boycott the Olympics – boycott homophobia! Stand in solidarity with people in Russia.”