Sochi: Russian activists ready gay-friendly games

The head of the Russian LGBT Sports Federation is in Toronto promoting the first gay sports tournament in Russia, which will be held after the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Russian LGBT Sports Federation official in Toronto to promote Open Games

Questions remain about how Russian authorities will enforce the controversial anti-gay laws that came into effect earlier this year. Protests against those laws have turned violent. (Maxim Shemetov/Reuters)

The head of the Russian LGBT Sports Federation is in Toronto promoting the first gay sports tournament in Russia, which will be held after the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Organizers of the Open Games hope to bring attention to the struggles of the lesbians, gays, bisexuals and the transgendered. 

Questions remain about how Russian authorities will enforce the controversial anti-gay laws that came into effect earlier this year. Protests against those laws have turned violent at times.

Organizer and gay amateur figure skater Konstantin Yablotskiy predicts the days after the Winter Games will be dangerous for those in the LGBT community. 

"As it was after the Beijing Olympics in China in 2008 — when the Olympics was over there was no media attention and all human rights defenders were just crushed by the national government," Yablotskiy told CBC News. 

The Open Games will be held in Moscow, between the Winter Games, which run Feb. 7 to 23, and the Paralympics. 

Two leading Toronto gay organizations, PrideHouse Toronto and OutSport Toronto, have thrown their support behind the plans. 

Darlene Homonko of PrideHouse Toronto says Russia is hoping to keep any talk of LGBT issues away from the spotlight. 

"To have a successful Sochi Games probably means no political unrest and dissent," said Homonko.

Yablotskiy doesn't expect any open demonstrations during the Sochi Games, though he says there may be more subtle signs of protest. Activists are calling on athletes of the same sex to hold hands during awards ceremonies, for example, to show their support of the LGBT community. 

With files from CBC's Philip Lee-Shanok

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.