Anti-Gay Olympic Policies Spur a Backlash Among Athletes

President Putin’s controversial mandates for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics have sports stars everywhere kicking up a fuss.
Emma Green-Tregaro used her manicure to show solidarity with the LGBT community. (Photo: Mark Kolbe/Getty)
Aug 15, 2013
Anna Hess is an editorial intern at TakePart. She is the Crime and Legal beat reporter for the University of Pennsylvania’s daily newspaper, The Daily Pennsylvanian, and volunteers as a mentor in the West Philadelphia public school district.

The rainbow—the official symbol of LGBT equality everywhere—has been making quite a splash since Russian President Vladimir Putin signed anti-gay propaganda legislation last month criminalizing public expression of "nontraditional" relationships.

On August 15, at a competition in Moscow, Swedish gymnast Emma Green-Tregaro sported rainbow nails while trying for an Olympic-qualifying high jump. Her gesture echoed a recent move by activists in her home country, who painted a rainbow crosswalk near the Russian embassy. 

American 800-meter runner Nick Symmonds said that he had intended to wear a rainbow badge to show his support, but was told he risked a jail sentence if he did, according to Reuters. Instead, he dedicated the silver medal he took home to gay and lesbian friends.

From the other side, Russian pole-vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva said at a Luzhniki Stadium championship news conference that she saw Green-Tregaro's move as disrespectful. "We consider ourselves like normal, standard people," she said. "We just live boys with women, girls with comes from the history.”

Indeed, Russia has a checkered past where LGBT rights are concerned, though activists within the country have made no secret of their disapproval of the law.

As for Symmonds, he may have backed down on the original gesture, but he's clear enough on the issue. "Whether you're gay, straight, black, white," he told toldRussia’s R-Sports, "we all deserve the same rights."

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