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As we look to the first day of the Sochi Winter Olympics, the world seems to be covered in rainbows. Efforts from all corners have been made to troll Putin’s government through an adoption of the rainbow flag when promoting this event.
Whether the German delegation’s fetching rainbow outfits, Google’s rainbow banner, Channel 4’s newly adopted rainbow logo, or its tongue-in-cheek tribute to the games, ‘Gay Mountain’, the Sochi games have become synonymous with the struggle for LGBT rights in Russia, as highlighted by Channel 4’s harrowing Hunted.
Channel 4’s commitment to highlighting this issue is admirable, continually juxtaposing reports on the games and their build up with imagery in keeping with LGBT rights. One such instance saw Jon Snow wearing a rainbow tie while interviewing Vitaly Milonov, the co-author of Russia’s “Anti-homosexual Propaganda” law, taking the widely held criticism and cynicism of the channel to subversive levels.
Channel 4’s latest foray, ‘Gay Mountain’, is anything but subversive, instead loudly and proudly declaring support for the Winter Olympics through an advert featuring a scantily clad Russian cabaret bear singing his heart out. While some quarters have seen it as a tame approach to the issues at stake, I feel the need to congratulate Channel 4 on a stark and fun move to highlight the LGBT issues at play to a primetime audience outside our gay bubble who may not be so aware. Judge for yourselves:
Yet all these approaches serve only to highlight the issue to Western viewers, rather than bring about any change for the ‘hunted’ homosexuals suffering from the tide of homophobia that has swept Russian society and government. Some quarters could potentially see these efforts as empty, serving only to appease Western guilt on this issue from the comfort of our armchairs.
Step in Ban Ki-moon. Yesterday, in the United Nations Secretary General’s address to the International Olympic Committee, Ban Ki-moon made it clear that discrimination and attacks on people based on their sexual orientation should be condemned and that “hatred of any kind must have no place in the 21st century.”
Ban Ki-moon has sparked the call for political pressure on the Russian government that many have been calling for. In an uncharacteristically adamant tone, he stated “we must all raise our voices against attacks on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex people” and that “Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter enshrines the IOC’s opposition to any form of discrimination.”
Speaking in the build-up to the Winter Olympics’ opening ceremony, Ban’s stance may fall on deaf ears, but by bringing the debate into the international political forum he has turned the tension and opposition of many into clear political debate, a debate which should be continued far beyond the Winter Olympics.