So the day finally came. Nothing that you wouldn't have expected, except maybe - perhaps - a statement espousing the ideas behind Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter came out of the mouth of Thomas Bach, the head of the International Olympic Committee, during the opening ceremonies. Not that NBC showed it. Meanwhile, NONE of the big sponsors have said one word about anything to do with the homosexual propaganda laws, and
Bob Costas(eye infection, but in Sochi) Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira can make even David Remnick of the New Yorker, who was on NBC to provide "insight" into the issues that Russia presented during the opening ceremony, sound as superficial and fatuous as they do.
Forgive me. I was watching the opening ceremonies. The run through the Cyrillic Alphabet gave us not only Tchaikovsky but Serge Diaghelev, another famous homosexual, too. I LOVED the fact that the Greek Olympians were wearing white gloves with fingers in the colors of the Olympic rings that could be construed as maybe rainbow colored, something that the NBC commentators ignored completely. I shut the television set off shortly after the entrance of the German team because Meredith Vieira mentioned the issues that LGBT people were having in Russia to point out that the German uniforms were NOT meant to be a protest statement. That was the only mention of the issue I heard from NBC.
For all the talk of love, the obvious elephant in the arena was Russia’s official stance on gay rights. (A video that played early in the night had depicted all sorts of loving relationships; one of them did feature two men, but they were steelworkers patting each other on the back and admiring their work after a long day on the job.) I had hoped someone would boldly make a small gesture in support of the LGBT community or somehow disrupt the proceedings, and I had my eyes peeled all night for an errant rainbow flag. It was not to be. But when Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, gave his address near the end of the night, he had some pointed remarks.And we are left grasping at straws.
“Yes, it is possible, even as competitors, to live together under one roof in harmony, with tolerance and without any form of discrimination for whatever reason,” he said. “Olympic Games are a sports festival embracing human diversity in great unity.”
They were just words, sure, but given the painstaking diplomacy that surrounds international sport, they stuck out.
Juliet Macur at the New York Times interpreted Bach's remarks thus:
At the opening ceremony, during which he sat next to Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, Bach gave a strong speech to kick off the Olympics. He made points that sounded like sharp digs at Putin and the law he signed that banned the distribution of so-called gay propaganda to children in Russia.The IOC is complicit throughout the entire run-up to the Olympics, and NOW the head decides it's time to say something. Okay, I guess.
In the most refreshing speech by an I.O.C. president in decades, Bach did not kowtow to the host country. He said the Olympics should set an example for “human diversity and great unity.”
Of course, (MAJOR h/t to susanala) if you were watching on NBC, you wouldn't have heard any of this, because, as Deadspin reports, NBC just edited out the long paragraph which concluded with those words. Go to Deadspin to see exactly how MUCH of the speech was edited out, and you'll find yet another reason to despise the coverage we get here.
NBC didn't report on this either. Sports Illustrated did, in a story about two men standing in front of the main railway station, miles away from the approved protest zone, holding anti-gay signs
Apparently, a demonstration in favor of a policy of president Vladimiir Putin and his government may proceed with impunity. Never mind that Russia's recently passed law - snip- is supposed to protect children, and any little Yuri or Tania happening by might have easily been moved to ask, "Mama, what's sodomy?"Elsewhere in Russia, they were rounding up protestors.As Steven Lee Myers reports in the New York Times,
In St. Petersburg, four gay-rights activists were arrested as they unfurled a banner quoting the Olympic Charter’s principle of nondiscrimination. In Moscow, at least 19 people were arrested near Red Square during a smattering of protests calling for gay rights. Those detained included several foreign activists who gathered at a clock counting down the last minutes to the opening of the Games.Putin apparently was forced to discuss the issue of gay rights with Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands:
Mr. Putin said that he had watched a television report on a gay club in Sochi, where one of those interviewed said: “You know, can you just finally leave us be. Sport is sport, and the Olympics are the Olympics. Let’s focus on the Olympics now. The less aggression there is from both sides on these issues, the better, in my opinion.”I think, as we've seen here at the Great Orange Satan, that you can find a gay person who will take ANY position, especially a "don't make waves" one when he's being quoted on television.
Mr. Putin added, “I fully agree with what he said.”
Ah, well. If anything is going to happen, it will probably be done by an athlete who is finished with his or her participation in the Games so it won't matter if he or she is deported. I don't know if I'll do this for every day (my teaching starts again Monday and it's only four courses instead of six this semester with NO new preps) but I'll try to keep you up to date on what's happening with LGBT issues in Russia as the Games go on.