Athletes may protest at Olympics

  • Article by: HENRY MEYER , Bloomberg News
  • Updated: December 3, 2013 - 12:31 AM

Activists want to call attention to anti-bias provision.


MOSCOW - Gay rights activists plan to defy President Vladimir Putin and pressure Olympic sponsors by getting athletes to protest a Russian ban on homosexual “propaganda” during the Sochi Games.

Athlete Ally, based in New York, said it’s in talks with Australian snowboarder Belle Brockhoff and Canadian alpine skier Mike Janyk as well as two others about wearing logos referring to principle six of the Olympic charter, which bans all forms of discrimination.

“There is a tremendous opportunity because the world is going to be watching,” Hudson Taylor, Athlete Ally’s founder and executive director, said.

Coca-Cola, the world’s largest beverage company, and McDonald’s, the biggest global restaurant chain by sales, have endured protests in the United States over their sponsorship of the Sochi Games, as has Procter & Gamble, the world’s largest consumer-products maker.

By calling attention to the International Olympic Committee’s own mission statement, athletes will be able to show their disdain for the law without violating that legislation or an Olympic ban on political actions during the Games in February, Taylor said.

Athlete Ally is also in talks with some teams about wearing “Principle 6” clothing, he said. Olympians in some competitions can sign sponsorship deals separate to the national squad. Spectators will be able to buy and wear the apparel.

“I want to compete as myself so that people see I am me,” said Brockhoff, who revealed in September that she is a lesbian. She said she would like to wear the “Principle 6” clothing in the Olympic Village outside of competitions though is taking legal advice before committing.

Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Procter & Gamble, together with France’s Atos, Dow Chemical Co., General Electric Co., Panasonic Corp., Samsung Electronics Co., Visa Inc. and the Omega luxury watch brand are the 10 main sponsors of the Games.

Gerhard Heiberg, head of marketing for the IOC, said in September he was being “pushed” by several sponsors who were worried about the likelihood of protests.

Russian Sports Minister Vitaliy Mutko said in August that athletes and spectators attending the Feb. 7-23 event will face arrest, fines and deportation if they violate the law, signed by Putin in June. A month later, Putin said in an interview with the Associated Press and Russia’s state-run Channel One television that he’ll “faithfully follow” Olympic principles and prohibit any discrimination on the basis of race, gender or sexuality.

The IOC, based in Lausanne, Switzerland, said it had received “strong written reassurances” from Russia that gay people won’t be discriminated against during the event.

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