Gay speed skater Blake Skjellerup plans to compete in Sochi

An openly gay athlete plans to wear a rainbow pin in defiance, while the International Olympic Committee (IOC) says that it will oppose any discrimination against gay sportsmen and spectators during the Russian Winter Olympics.

There has been growing concern that the country’s gay propaganda bill, which recently became law, will affect gay and lesbian participants in the Games, which will be held in the city of Sochi from 7 to 23 February 2014.

The IOC released a statement to Windy City Times, stating that: “The International Olympic Committee is clear that sport is a human right and should be available to all regardless of race, sex or sexual orientation.

“The Games themselves should be open to all, free of discrimination, and that applies to spectators, officials, media and of course athletes. We would oppose in the strongest terms any move that would jeopardise this principle.”

Under the new gay propaganda law, tourists who display any public support for gay rights could be arrested for up to 14 days before being thrown out of Russia. The law is so vague and broad that even proclaiming to be gay or wearing a pro-gay t-shirt in public could be a violation.

Russian officials and the courts have also refused to allow a Pride House, a tradition since 2010, to be hosted at the Games for LGBT athletes and visitors.

One New York based Russian LGBT rights group had called for a boycott of the Sochi Winter Olympics over the country’s increasingly homophobic policies.

New Zealand Olympic speed skater Blake Skjellerup, who came out in 2010, told vocativ.com in a video (see below) that “the Olympics are an apolitical movement, however, the Olympics are also a celebration of humanity, and homosexually is part of humanity.”

 He is planning to defy the ban and will wear a rainbow pin when he competes in Sochi. “If that gets me in trouble, then, I guess, so be it,” Skjellerup said.

The IOC went on to say that as a sporting organisation all it can do is “continue to work to ensure that the Games can take place without discrimination against athletes, officials, spectators and the media,” adding that “wider political issues in the country are best dealt with by other international organisations more suited to this endeavour.”

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