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LGBT problems unlikely to interfere with Sochi Olympics, but some others may crop up

August 13, 2013, 17:16 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

MOSCOW, August 13 (Itar-Tass) - While some in the West begin to look somewhat hysterical over the fear people of non-traditional sexual orientation may get into hot water at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, the Russian authorities and the Olympic committee have promised that neither the athletes nor guests have anything to worry about. Provided they commit no acts of wrongdoing.

Some say the hue and cry over the LGBT community and the newly adopted Russian laws protecting minors from its propaganda is a side effect of the overall cooling in Russia’s relations with the United States due to the affair of the runaway CIA employee Edward Snowden. Experts have been saying, though, that the underlying reason for this should be looked for not so much in the current political problems as in the West’s 50-year-long trend of protecting the interests of minorities as an absolute value.

After the State Duma promised that the law against LGBT propaganda will not be applied to the participants in and guests of the Olympic Games, the Russian Olympic Committee has confirmed that it would do “everything in its powers to let all guests feel comfortable and safe.”

“If the person does not dictate one’s views to others with children watching it, no countermeasures will follow. People with non-traditional sexual orientation will be free to take part in competitions and all other activities at the Olympics and feel no fear for their security,” Russian Olympic President Alexander Zhukov said on Monday.

The interior ministry on Monday declared on its website that police would be detaining LGTB community members only for action encouraging minors to have non-traditional sexual relations.

As follows from the statement, people who regard themselves as members of sexual minorities but refrain from “any provocations” and participate in Olympic events in the ordinary fashion will draw no objections from the law enforcers.

Russia's president on June 30 signed an act to outlaw LGBT propaganda among youngsters. Those responsible should brace for fines - 4,000-5,000 roubles for individuals, 40,000 rubble to 50,000 roubles for officials, and 800,000 roubles to 1,000,000 roubles or for a suspension of activity for a period of 90 days in the case of legal entities. In case of propaganda through the mass media or the internet, fines will go up to 100,000 roubles for individuals, to 200,000 roubles for officials and to 1,000,000 million roubles for legal entities.

Foreign nationals residing in Russia may be deported.

At the beginning of August, officials in some Western countries allowed for boycotting the Sochi Olympics in retaliation for Russia’s adoption of the LGBT law. Germany’s Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger was the first to express her opinion on the subject. In her opinion, a boycott of the Olympics may be a means of choice for athletes and politicians to express their attitude to the controversial law.

Russian laws banning LGBT propaganda and the adoptions of Russian children by same-sex couples and lonely individuals in countries where such marriages are legalised have drawn a sharply negative response from the West. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is their unambiguous critic.

British author and TV host Stephen Fry has called for a boycott of the Olympics. He argues that the Sochi Winter Olympics may become a disgraceful chapter in the history of the Olympic movement. In an official message to British Prime Minister David Cameron and the International Olympic committee he claimed that Russia was infringing upon the rights of gays and lesbians.

US LGBT activists were quick to join the campaign after author and activist Dan Savage urged all bars to clear their menus of Russian vodka. The owners of New York bars on Monday emptied vodka bottles on the streets of Manhatten to protest what they claim is abuse of the rights of LGBT communities in Russia.

With a bottle of Stolichnaya in hand, the president of the United Restaurant and Tavern Owners Association, Paul Hurley, called for an all-out boycott of Russian alcohol in the city.

“All these vodkas here, we're going to throw them out,' Hurley told the press. 'We feel enough is enough.”

At least two hundred outlets in New York have joined the boycott, which has also spread to many gay bars in North America. LGBT community members are seen pouring the content of vodka bottles on the pavements in the streets of New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Chicago.

In the meantime, US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron, as well as German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle have opposed the idea of boycotting the Sochi Olympics, although the latter makes no secret of his untraditional preferences. He argues that the whole discussion of boycotting the games is a mistake, although Russia has adopted a legal act to outlaw the propaganda of homosexuality.

The question is why the issue of sex minorities’ rights has suddenly hit the headlines now, with just six months still to go before the 2014 Winter Olympics, although it is as old as the history of the human race and such minorities around the world, including Russia, did have really hard times once in a while? Why have Russia’s latest measures to protect its minors triggered such a frenzied reaction within certain quarters in the West? Who would swear to it some of the reasons are not purely political, like the Snowden row?

“The real cause is rather not international. It stems from the modern state of Western society, where one observes the hegemony of the minority, where its interests are widely represented in the mass media, although those who express these ideas may not necessarily belong with that minority,” political scientist Mikhail Remizov has told ITAR-TASS. “This trend developed back in the 1960s and 1970s, when the ideas of the emancipation of labour gave way to the idea of sex emancipation.”

In the West, Russia has a reputation of being a country that is far more traditional than the others, and this makes tensions still worse, Remizov said.

The ballyhoo over LGBT problem will most probably ease before long, but the closer we are to the opening of the Olympics, the greater the risk some other, more serious issues may surface, Remizov warns. He recalled that just before the Beijing Olympics, the Tibet issue had taken centre stage. Now, for the Sochi Olympics the question of Chechen terrorism may prove a far greater risk than any LGBT rows, he warns.