Showing posts with label The Olympics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Olympics. Show all posts

July 28, 2016

Brazil an Anti Gay Country Hosting Gays in Olympics


Olympic silver medalist Gus Kenworthy, who came out as gay shortly after the 2014 Winter Games,
poses with dogs he rescued from Sochi. (Photo: Photo by Robin MacDonald)

 Activists, out Olympians say visibility more important — yet fear far greater — on biggest stage in sports

Gus Kenworthy was ready to tell the world he was gay. The freestyle skier had his coming-out story planned in his head before the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games.
He understood the gravity of the situation. Through weeks of soul-searching he had concluded the stage was perfect. Russia was attracting global attention for introducing legislation that purported to criminalize homosexual activity on the spurious grounds that it corrupted the minds of children. What better place to make a stand?
“Then,” Kenworthy tells USA TODAY Sports. “I ended up not doing it.”
Kenworthy captured the hearts of the Olympic television audience in Sochi, winning a silver medal and then adopting a pair of adorable stray dogs.
After returning home, he soon became the first action sports star to come out as gay. 
 "For me, coming out after the Olympics was right,” he says. “The Olympics are overwhelming as an athlete. You work so hard for four years, heck, your entire life even, to get to that point. That commands all your focus.” 


The rationale is understandable. Why come out and risk creating a distraction? It's a question athletes could be pondering now as they prepare for the Rio Olympic Games, which begin with the Opening Ceremony on Aug. 5.
“There might be 500 or so gay athletes competing in Rio, but almost all of them are closeted,” says Outsports co-founder Jim Buzinski. “The biggest lie is that it’s not important to come out.”
Buzinski estimates there will be more than 30 out Olympians competing next month. According to Outsports, there were 23 out athletes at the London Games from more than 10,000 Olympians, and 12 of 10,708 at the 2008 Beijing Games. Buzinski concedes that the pro-LGBT movement has stalled over the past couple of years. Rio provides an opportunity to regain that momentum, he says.
"There hasn’t been a headline-grabbing athlete to come out,” Buzinski says. “That’s why the Olympics are so unique. It’s three weeks where someone from a non-major sport can take center stage. Gus (Kenworthy) … had star power. But he froze. His reason for waiting made sense personally, but he missed a big opportunity.”

Worse than Sochi

In the build-up to Sochi, LGBT issues were a hot topic of discussion, with Russia’s legislation sparking international outrage. President Obama made a statement by including openly gay former athletes in the United States delegation for the Closing Ceremony. 


Yet the conversation has been significantly muted as Rio approaches, primarily because the concern in Brazil is much more complicated. The country has an image as a tolerant, open society and the world’s biggest gay pride parade takes place annually in Sao Paulo. Yet the New York Times recently tabbed the country “the world’s deadliest” place for the LGBT community, citing an average of one LGBT person killed per day, according to Grupo Gay da Bahia, a long-time advocacy group for LGBT rights in Brazil.
“It is hard to be LGBT in Brazil because the threat is constant,” says Dayana Gusmao, an executive for Rio Sem Homofobia (Rio Without Homophobia). “We have had so many cases of fathers beating their gay children to (try to) make them straight. We still have people who want to correct lesbians by raping them. Brazil is not a safe place to be LGBT.”

The Brazilian constitution orders equal treatment for all, regardless of sexuality, but those intentions often fail to translate into reality.
For the LGBT community, the sports world is in a concerning cycle where major events have been awarded to nations with a troubling track record on gay rights. Following Sochi, Russia will also host the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Soccer’s biggest event will go to Qatar, a nation where homosexuality is outlawed, in 2022. In the U.S., the 2017 NBA All-Star Game was moved due to North Carolina’s discriminatory House Bill 2.
Just how deeply the Olympic movement should involve itself in such matters is a point of contention. The IOC has struggled to attract elite bids from countries other than those that resemble modern dictatorships.
“If Brazil is the home of the largest percentage of (LGBT) hate crimes, and we have LGBT athletes competing, then this is an Olympic issue. It’s that simple,” says Athlete Ally executive director Hudson Taylor.
Why sponsors won't drop out athletes
As Brazil fights against outdated stereotypes, there is also a steeliness in the resolve of out athletes who accept that the battle for acceptance is not yet won.

The fear that exposure of an athlete’s sexual orientation will supersede a performance becomes intensified at the Olympic level, according to You Can Play executive director Wade Davis, who helps coach closeted athletes on their coming out processes. Davis says visibility is the difference-maker to quell discrimination in locker rooms and in society.
“We’re not talking about just a (skin color) minority here,” he says. “It’s a hidden minority. You have to be out for people to really see you.”
“The more athletes that come out, the better things will get,” adds Mexico women’s soccer player Bianca Sierra, who recently received a homophobic backlash on Twitter after sharing a picture with her girlfriend. “If we as professional athletes are comfortable with who we are, we can inspire others who look up to us to be who they are.”

Fear of losing sponsors is a major reason many athletes choose not to come out, but Buzinski says it’s “an argument that keeps getting thinner and thinner.”
“If Nike or Adidas dropped a gay athlete, can you imagine the backlash? If anything, being gay would increase your marketability,” Buzinski says.
Greg Louganis won Olympic gold medals for the U.S. in 1984 and 1988 and came out in 1994. He recalls a much different era.
 "There were moral clauses where a part of your personal life could be used as a reason to cut sponsorship,” says Louganis, who received a Wheaties box this May in response to an online petition.
Louganis says he believes there was “subtle homophobia” from NBC during the 2008 Beijing Games. The network apologized for its coverage of openly gay diver Matthew Mitcham, who won gold in the 10-meter platform and raced into the stands to embrace his partner at which point NBC’s cameras cut away.
“(NBC) showed stories about everyone else’s families,” Louganis says. “But just eight years ago, a major network was uncomfortable with a gay couple.”
Louganis, a gay rights activist, was involved in the “Open Games” – athletics events organized by LGBT rights groups that coincided with Sochi. A bomb threat halted the opening ceremony. “Visibility comes at a cost,” Louganis says.
While athletes are focused on their dreams of success and their personal challenges, the LGBT community in Rio continues to push for change. A series of protests are planned during the Games, much like during the World Cup.

In true Brazilian style, LGBT protests in Rio look more like parties, such as one attended by USA TODAY Sports this year. Many wore bandages and carried crutches in protest of police violence against LGBT revelers during the Carnaval in February, while samba music, dance and performance art provided a dazzling backdrop.
“The police just do whatever they need to do to shut us up,” protester Tiago Goncalves, 29, said. “They do whatever they want. We need progress.”
Progress is a vital concept in the LGBT movement, with many athletes wrestling between serving the public good and avoiding distractions.
U.S. gymnast Josh Dixon, who did not make the team this year for Rio or four years ago for London, believes an Olympian’s athletic and personal identity are intertwined and called coming out as gay four years ago a “responsibility for the next generation.” 


British racewalker Tom Bosworth, who is well positioned for a medal at Rio, says timing was essential in his coming-out process.
“I had everything in place,” Bosworth says. “I was comfortably out, I was with my partner for five years, all of my friends and family knew. And I never hid it from my teammates. This all made it really easy to go public.”
Those luxuries were the exact obstacles that stood in the way for Kenworthy before the Sochi Games.
“I just wasn’t ready. It was too much all at once. I hadn’t told my family or my best friend so it was so much more daunting to come out to the world,” says Kenworthy. “I think it’s super scary coming out of the closet for anyone whether you’re in a small town, have a religious family or you’re involved in a sport with homophobic language.
“ ‘Responsibility’ is too intense of a word for coming out as an Olympian. You want to do it to help people, sure. But it’s gotta be for you first. And coming out has been the best decision of my life.”

 and , posted on USA TODAY Sports
Rogers reported from Rio De Janeiro.

July 24, 2016

Russian Doping Report Confirms Widespread Doping but…


but Russians will not be blanket banned.         Tomorrow’s news today at Adamfoxie*



Russian athletes have avoided a blanket ban from the Rio Olympics after the International Olympic Committee elected to allow individual sport federations to determine their role in state-sponsored doping.

The 387 members of the Russia team faced the prospect of a ban from the competition next month after a Wada report published details on a “culture” of systematic, state-sponsored doping

The IOC’s decision, revealed on Sunday afternoon, means the individual federations have 12 days to review each athletes’ conduct on a case-by-case basis in a defining moment of president Thomas Bach’s tenure on the committee.  

Richard McLaren on Russian investigation
Calls for a blanket ban had intensified with Olympic skeleton racer and British IOC member Adam Pengilly saying: “The scale, leadership and co-ordination of a system like this is arguably the most heinous crime possible against the Olympic movement.”

Swimmer Rebecca Adlington and hurdler Sally Gunnell are also among the signatories who have endorsed a letter sent by The Times newspaper to the IOC which urged them to ban Russia from Rio.

It follows a report commissioned by Wada and undertaken by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren which reaffirmed allegations that the Russian sports ministry oversaw an expansive doping programme, including the manipulation of urine samples at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.

It additionally revealed that doping in 28 summer sports from 2011 to 2015 had also received state sponsorship. Bach said the findings showed a “shocking and unprecedented attack on the integrity of sports and on the Olympic Games” and declared the IOC “will not hesitate to take the toughest sanctions available against any individual or organization implicated.”

Background

The McLaren report's key findings
The Moscow Laboratory operated, for the protection of doped Russian athletes, within a State-dictated failsafe system, described in the report as the Disappearing Positive Methodology.
The Sochi Laboratory operated a unique sample swapping methodology to enable doped Russian athletes to compete at the Games.
The Ministry of Sport directed, controlled and oversaw the manipulation of athletes' analytical results or sample swapping, with the active participation and assistance of the FSB (the Russian federal security service), CSP, and both Moscow and Sochi Laboratories.
 independent.co.uk

Nation Doping Violators: ioc-will-allow-russians-that-dope-to compete

IOC Will Allow Russians that Dope to Compete. Here are the Doping Violators







Following allegations of a government-sponsored doping program, the International Olympic Committee has decided against a blanket ban on all Russians from the Rio Olympics, but instead will leave decisions on individual athletes' participation with their relevant sports federations. This decision comes after the World Anti-Doping agency and other anti-doping organizations recommended a ban on Russia's entire team.

Include the following visualizations to illustrate results from WADA’s report on doping in sports by country, as well as Russia's Olympic records.



December 9, 2014

Int.Olympic Committee Revises non-discrimination Charter to include Sexual Orientation


STAND ALONE PHOTO. REED SAXON/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Gay rights activists in Los Angeles protest the passage of ‘gay propaganda' laws in Sochi, site of the 2014 Winter Olympics earlier this year. 
The International Olympic Committee unanimously approved a revision of its non-discrimination policy Monday to include sexual orientation, a step sparked by Russian lawmakers' passage of laws before the Sochi games that banned "gay propaganda."
The language will also be included in contracts between the IOC and future host cities. The IOC notified prospective bidders for the 2022 winter games of the change to Principle 6 of the Olympic charter, which already barred discrimination based on race, religion, gender and other factors.
Activists said Russia's laws encourage homophobic attacks on Russia's gay population and criticized the IOC and corporate sponsors for not doing more to force Russia to repeal the legislation. More than 50 current and former Olympians - including tennis great Martina Navratilova and gold medal diver Greg Louganis — joined the “Principle Six Campaign” — to protest the laws.
LGBT rights advocates called for the U.S. to boycott the Sochi games in response to Russia’s controversial “gay propaganda” legislation.
“This is a pivotal moment for equality in sport,” said Andre Banks, executive director and co-founder of All Out, a gay rights organization
The IOC’s new policy could face a big test in 2022, since gays and lesbians face discrimination and harassment in both finalists, Beijing, China and Almaty, Kazakhstan.
The IOC’s anti-gay policy, meanwhile, also places pressure on FIFA. The 2018 World Cup will be held in Russia, while the 2022 World Cup will be held in Qatar, which has refused to say if gay athletes will even be allowed in the country to participate in the tournament.
In addition to the revision of the non-discrimination policy, the IOC also unanimously approved a reform package that will make bidding for the games less expensive and give hosts greater flexibility to stage the games. The IOC abolished the cap of 28 sports for the Summer Games to move to an "events-based" system that would allow new competitions to come in, while keeping to about 10,500 athletes and 310 medal events.
The reforms - IOC president Thomas Bach's 40-point "Olympic Agenda 2020" - mark the biggest changes in the IOC in decades.
The new bidding process is a response to concerns about the exorbitant costs of hosting the Olympics. The new system allows prospective candidates to discuss their plans in advance with the IOC to tailor games to their own venues and. Cities will be allowed to hold events outside the host city or country, which opens the door to joint bids by cities, neighboring countries or regions.
IOC vice president John Coates said holding events outside the host country would only be considered in "exceptional circumstances." He said the idea would have to be raised in the early phase of bidding and would need approval from the IOC executive board.
"The compactness of the bid is always important," Coates said. "But the compactness of the games has to be weighed up with the cost benefit of being able to use existing venues rather than build new venues."
Host cities will also be allowed to propose the inclusion of one or more additional events for their games, which will allow Tokyo organizers to request that baseball and softball be included in the 2020 Games. Both sports were ropped after the 2008 Beijing Games.
The IOC also abolished the cap of 28 sports for the Summer Games to move to an "events-based" system that would allow new competitions to come in, while keeping to about 10,500 athletes and 310 medal events.
The IOC also agreed to work with international federations to have a greater number of women participate in the games. The IOC hopes to achieve 50 percent female participation in the Olympics and will and encourage mixed-gender team events.
The IOC also approved the launch of a digital network to promote Olympic sports between the games and engage with young viewers.
adamfoxie*bog Int

February 24, 2014

Once The Games Got Underway The Public Criticism Went Quiet



                                                                  


SOCHI, Russia--Before the Sochi Games, a number of Olympic athletes pointedly spoke out against Russia's controversial gay 'propaganda' laws. The law mandates fines for speaking in defense of gay rights or saying gay relationships are equal to heterosexual ones in front of minors.
Australian snowboarder Belle Brockhoff, for instance, told The Atlantic before Sochi that she planned to "rip on (Russian President Vladimir Putin's) ass" after competing.
Once the Games got underway, the public criticism all but went quiet.
  There were no high-profile proactive statements or blatant symbolic gestures by athletes. A few athletes criticized the law when asked by reporters to weigh in and a Belgian performer who supports gay rights displayed rainbow colors, a symbol of the gay-rights movement, during her performance at the Games.
But the only really noticeable pro-gay act inside Olympic Park came when Italian Vladimir Luxuria, a transgendered gay rights activist, showed up at a women's hockey game in a rainbow skirt after broadcasting that she planned a protest. Police removed her from the park. A day earlier police detained her briefly after she unfurled a "gay is okay" banner outside the park.
So what happened?
"I really have already voiced my opinion and spoken out," said U.S. figure skater Ashley Wagner, responding to questions from reporters. Wagner has been outspoken in her criticism of the Russian laws. "My stand against the LGBT legislation here in Russia is really the most that I can do right now," she said. "I'm here to compete first and foremost."
It is an oft-spoken mantra by athletes.
Athletes who have spent a lifetime preparing for the Olympics say using the platform to promote a political or human rights cause distracts from the competition and from other athletes who may not share their views. As far as speaking out at the Games themselves, while competitors are allowed to voice opinions when asked, Olympic charter prohibits political propaganda in any "Olympic sites, venues or other areas."
Russian officials set aside a site where protests would be allowed but it was several miles outside the Olympics and mostly stood empty.
Olympic activism has been a complicated and controversial issue for decades – the most famous incident the black power salute by medal winners John Carlos and Tommie Smith in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics – and this year was no exception.
Brockhoff, speaking to reporters after failing to medal in ladies' boardercross, told reporters she began receiving "hate tweets" after speaking out against Putin. Sochi, she said, was not the right place to take a stand.
"I said before, if I didn't get a medal, nobody is really going to care," she said. Brockhoff said pressure she felt to advocate for gay rights was greater than the pressure she felt to compete. "I want to enjoy the Olympic experience, but after that I will definitely be voicing my opinion."
Tennis great Billie Jean King, who is among the gay athletes President Barack Obamanamed to the U.S. Olympic delegation, said Sunday that she supported athletes' decisions to stay clear of public demonstrations that could get them booted from competition, but disagrees that the Olympics is not a place for politics.
"It is an unbelievable opportunity to exchange ideas and hear each other," she said, standing on a hotel balcony just outside Olympic Park. "Hopefully, out of all these athletes we will have some teachers."
To believe the Olympics can remain entirely separate from politics, she says, amounts to "keeping your head in the sand."
Gay Olympians didn't face the backlash that hit Johnny Weir, gay figure-skater-turned-commentator, when he said he planned to work the Games for NBC but not address gay rights while there. Gay-rights groups criticized his decision; one organization protested outside Columbia University where Weir was speaking.
"There has never been such a coordinated and global presence and view from athletes…speaking out so strongly against discrimination in sport," said Andre Banks, cofounder and executive director of gay-rights group All Out. "It's hard to look at where we're at and where we were a year ago for these games and feel like we didn't have an iconic moment."
Banks said the International Olympic Committee should be more selective in selecting future host cities. "There should be a bar," he said.
IOC Spokesman Mark Adams said it's impractical to weed out potentially controversial countries, otherwise the Olympics would be held "in only two places," he said.
The lack of demonstrations at the Games was a success for organizers eager to keep the spotlight off Russia's antigay laws. Russian officials have denied allegations they've tried to suppress protests.
"Our job at the IOC is to see that Principle 6 is upheld and we believe it has been," Adams said, referring to a section of the Olympic charter that prohibits discrimination -- though not explicitly against gays -- at the Olympics. "We believe that has been fully upheld."
He said the dustup with Luxuria, the Italian activist, is "a good case of why we need to keep the games separate from issues that are not game related."
The biggest statements came from outside Olympic Park.
In an unusually explicit stand, AT&T Inc. came out against the Russia law before the Games, calling it "harmful to a diverse society." A Canadian human-rights group released a witty Olympic-themed commercial supporting gay rights, with the tagline, "The games have always been a little gay. Let's fight to keep them that way." Obama's decision to send King and other gay athletes to the Games and skip the event himself was widely seen as a poke at Putin. White House officials have said Obama's schedule did not permit him to attend the Games.
The highest-profile dissent was focused on broader human rights issues.
A group of uniformed Cossacks attacked members of the Russian punk group Pussy Riot with horse whips in the center of Sochi on Wednesday as the group began an anti-Kremlin protest near the Olympic Games in a widely-broadcast scene. Adams, the IOC spokesman, said the following day that the committee was distressed by the event and understood Russian authorities were looking into it.
In a brief appearance before reporters on Sunday, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns said of the Pussy Riot situation, "there is no excuse for using violence against peaceful protesters."
Gay high-schooler and activist Vladislav Slavsky attended the gathering with King and Burns. Slavsky, of Sochi, said he has been beaten at school and is regularly harassed. He said the Olympics brought much-needed attention to gay rights in Russia and he fears the attention will fade when the Games leave town.
"Journalists will go away from here," he said. "And Putin can do whatever he wants."
—Betsy McKay and Paul Sonne contributed to this article.
Write to Sharon Terlep at sharon.terlep@wsj.com

February 9, 2014

15 Signs Russia is NOT Ready for the Olympics

The winter Olympics kick off in the Russian city of Sochi on Thursday, whether Russia is ready for them or not. And it increasingly appears that Sochi might not actually be all that ready. Here are 15 signs – some of them superficial, some legitimately alarming – that the Olympics could get off to a bumpy start.
1. The Olympic flame went out 44 times
Russia's bold plan to run the Olympic torch for thousands of miles, including to the north pole, made it the longest run in history. But the flame kept going out, including in front of the Kremlin, just moments after Russian President Vladimir Putin helped light it. This video shows a well-meaning guard trying to re-light it with a pocket lighter as the entire world  
2. An official Olympic hub isn't even finished
Construction work continues apace outside the Gorki Plaza East hotel in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014. The IOC is urging Russian Olympic organizers to move quickly to resolve the issue of accommodations that are not ready for accredited media personnel in the mountains outside Sochi. According to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic organizing committee, only six of the nine media hotels in the mountain area are fully operational. Associated Press
Construction work continues apace outside the Gorki Plaza East hotel in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia, on Feb. 2, 2014. (AP)
As of Sunday, Gorki Plaza — the transportation and housing hub for thousands of visitors — was still under construction. Organizers blamed 10 days of recent rain.

3. No one knows how bad the environmental damage is
Environmental experts predict the breakneck construction in Sochi could cause significant environmental damage — but because of Russia’s opaqueness on the issue, they really have no idea how big the problem is. Observers from organizations like the WorldWatch Institute and the World Wildlife Fund, however, have voiced concernsabout illegal waste dumping, contaminated drinking water, dangerous construction on unsound ground, light pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and disruption to native animal populations and habitats.

4. Allegations of corruption with Olympic funds
Anti-corruption activists in Russia produced this interactive map about Sochi Olympics funds.
Anti-corruption activists in Russia produced this interactive map about Sochi Olympics funds.
Officials in Russia, and observers around the world, have accused organizers in Sochi of widespread corruption and mismanagement of Olympics funds. The Anti-Corruption Foundation, an opposition group founded by activist and politician Alexei Navalny, has gone so far as to publish an interactive map on all the alleged embezzlement, a screenshot of which is above.

5. Woman displaced by construction mishap living in shack
A 58-year-old woman from outside of Sochi is living in an aluminum shack after construction errors caused her two-story house to collapse. She’s one of several demanding compensation for homes ruined, she alleges, by Olympic subcontractors.

6. Construction workers deported, possibly unpaid
Workers cordon off a leaning building in Sochi as construction moves forward, in this March 2013 photo. (MIKHAIL MORDASOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Workers cordon off a leaning building in Sochi as construction moves forward, in this March 2013 photo. (Mikhail Mordasov/AFP/Getty Images)
More than 100 construction workers from Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina weredetained and deported back to their countries — often, they claim, without being paid for their work.

7. The mass campaign to "dispose" of stray dogs
Sochi’s stray dog problem is so severe that local organizers had to contract a pest control company to “catch and dispose” of the animals, which have been spotted everywhere from hotels to Olympic venues. (Seriously, there are a lot of stray dogs in Sochi.) Said Alexei Sorokin, the director of the pest control firm: “God forbid [a dog runs in the stadium] at the actual opening ceremony. This will be a disgrace for the whole country."

8. Political activists barred from even watching
The Russian Olympic Committee denied fan passes to several Russian political activists — basically denying them any access to the games, even as spectators.

9. Sochi filled with construction debris, unfinished buildings

A picture taken through the window of a house that is being torn down shows the stadium for the 2014 Winter Olympics in the Adler district of Sochi. (Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters)
Recent photos from the neighborhoods around the Olympic Park, where athletes will live and compete during the games, show streets filled with trash, loose wires and uncovered manholes.

10. Oh, and there may be loose terrorists
The U.S. State Department issued a travel alert for the Games, after reports of three “black widow” suicide bombers targeting Sochi and several online threats from terrorist groups.

11. Athletes say snow jumps are dangerously steep
Sochi organizers were forced to modify a snowboarding course after a top Norwegian snowboarder, Totstein Horgmo, crashed in practice and fractured his collarbone. Multiple athletes complained that the jumps were too steep. Horgmo, who had been a medal contender, will probably not compete.

12. Photos of "Sochi problems" are going viral online

Public perception of the games online is so bad that a Twitter account called@SochiProblems has already racked up more than 11,000 followers. The account’s bio: “I’m a mess, and not prepared for you!”

13. Journalists are live tweeting gross and hilarious hotel mishaps

Some journalists are being warned that the water in their hotels is too polluted to bathe in — let alone drink. “I just washed my face with Evian, like I'm a Kardashian or something,” tweeted the Chicago Tribune’s Stacy St. Clair, minutes after posting a photo of the cloudy yellow water coming out of her tap.

14. At least one hotel has no floor. But it does have a prominent portrait of Vladimir Putin.

15. Russian Olympics officials are not really controlling the story
One CNN producer who tweeted a hotel S.O.S. call to Dmitry Chernyshenko, the president of the Sochi organizing committee, got this response: “media hotels are opened, undergoing final testing. Apologize for inconvenience. Pls contact press operations or accomodation service.” When the producer incredulously asked “can you believe this is the Winter Olympics?” Chernyshenko helpfully encouraged him to look around at the mountains and “believe.”  
 Scrubbing up Sochi for the Olympics 


February 7, 2014

Blake Skjellerup Talks Coming Out, Posing Nude and Sochi Olympics

EXCLUSIVE: Blake Skjellerup Talks Coming Out, The Sochi Olympics And Posing Nude (WATCH)

blake skjellerup 4
Olympic speed skater Blake Skjellerup has been a vocal advocate for the LGBT global community since coming out after the 2010 Games in Vancouver. He’s not skating in the 2014 Winter Games, but he’s been outspoken in criticizing Russia’s abhorrent anti-gay Blake Skjelleruplaws and their effect on Olympic athletes coming to Sochi.
 Below, NewNowNext’s Ryan Brockington has an exclusive sitdown with Skjellerup, talking about everything from coming out as a gay Olympian and draping himself in rainbows at the Games to posing naked on the cover of GT magazine.
Check it out, below.

February 5, 2014

What Putin Should Have Learn from 1980 Moscow Summer Games



                                                                           


Here’s a country about to present itself on the world stage to soak up the admiration and goodwill it has long been wrongfully denied. Scheming outsiders are trying to sabotage this joyful sporting event. Security? Don’t even ask.
Naturally we’re talking about the Olympics — the Moscow 1980 Summer Games — which are about to cast their long shadow on partly cloudy Sochi, where the Winter Games open Friday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin likes to see himself as a student of history, but if he had been looking for lessons from 1980, he could have avoided much of what has provoked unwanted controversy today. But just like the Soviet leaders before him, he was tone-deaf, making a series of gestures that infuriated the West and endangered a national pet project.
The Soviets invaded Afghanistan the year before the Games and exiled the dissident physicist Andrei Sakharov six months before the Olympics, all the while ranting against the evils of capitalism, just as they were trying to show off
an empire where communism worked, a country to be envied rather than feared and despised.
Putin has cracked down hard on his own dissidents, encouraged a law viewed as limiting gay rights that was passed just months before the Olympics and cast Russia as a special, spiritual country superior to the decadent West. That has done little to further his goal of introducing the world to a capable and important Russia.
In 1980, the Soviet invasion set off a boycott of the Games by the United States and other countries, the very ones meant to be impressed. In 2014, high-level American officials are staying away, showing their disapproval of the country Putin has built.
And so the old grievances present themselves again. Violations of human rights. Authoritarianism vs. democracy. Fears about security.
Only eight years before the 1980 Games, terrorists had killed 11 Israelis at the Munich Olympics. Security remained a troubling challenge for the Soviets, who had many enemies. The police presence was huge. Today, other issues, same results. Now, unrest in the North Caucasus, where Moscow has enemies, has raised fears of terrorism requiring a “ring of steel” around Sochi, as today’s officials describe it.
Of course, the cast of characters was different 34 years ago. Jowly, worried-about-his-weight Leonid Brezhnev presided, the ruler of the Soviet Union, reading from a little piece of paper as he opened the Games at Central Lenin Stadium that July.
Putin, a man of the teleprompter and “Do you think he uses a little Botox?” epoch, was a 27-year-old KGB agent at the time.
But the script? Pretty familiar.
Then, the Olympics was the moment to show the superiority of communism over capitalism and a Moscow glittering as a worldwide tourist destination.
Now, Putin wants to show off the successful, we-can-do-anything nation he has created from the ashes of the destroyed Soviet Union, which collapsed just 11 years after the Olympics. And Sochi, made grand by billions of dollars in Olympic investment, will draw vacationers from around the globe.
In 1980, Moscow already had big stadiums. The Olympic Village, press center and other necessary construction never reached the all-encompassing effort seen in Sochi, where a quiet Soviet-era resort has been filled with highway interchanges, tunnels torn through mountains, new railroads, train stations and an airport, along with a slew of arenas, ski jumps, bobsled runs and more.
‘A joyless experience’
The Soviets did have to spruce up Moscow. Children and undesirables were sent out of the city. The country folk who came in waves to forage in the shops for food and toilet paper were turned out.
The authorities guaranteed everything would be — in a cherished Soviet phrase — on international standards, as Anthony Barbieri, then the Baltimore Sun correspondent, recalls.
“They made a special effort to be very accommodating to visitors,” said Barbieri, now a professor of writing and editing at Penn State. “It wasn’t the usual deal where you went to a restaurant that was half-empty and a doorman told you there was no room. During the Olympics, they actually would let you in. Coffeehouses had coffee. Beer halls had beer.”
The boycott infuriated Soviet officials, although they publicly brushed it off as capitalist arrogance.
“They had a thing about the U.S. and the West,” Barbieri said. “If only their friends came, it wasn’t the same for them.”
They saw the Olympics as a huge breakthrough for the Soviet Union, said Kevin Klose, who was The Washington Post’s Moscow correspondent. “And they made a big effort in the crazy way they had to show that they were different than they had been.”
Sochi is being protected against terrorism. Turns out in 1980 most of the police — in and out of uniform — were meant to protect good Soviet citizens from evil foreigners who might try to infect them with capitalist propaganda. Americans were considered likely terrorists.
The paranoia was uncurbed, recalls Klose, now president of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Citizens were told to be on the alert for hidden time bombs — or anti-Soviet literature. Children were warned to stay away from foreigners at all cost because they would be given poisoned chewing gum.
The normal Moscow police force of 50,000 was beefed up to 200,000, Klose wrote, which makes Sochi’s 60,000 or so seem modest — although Sochi is far smaller than Moscow.
Soldiers carrying AK-47 assault rifles surrounded the Olympic Village. Police patrolled the corridors of the hotels for the foreign press. Metal detectors checked bags again and again.
“On the whole,” Barbieri said, “it was a joyless experience.”

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