Closing ceremonies today in Sochi marked the end of what will be remembered as the gay Olympics, despite Russian efforts to the contrary. It began last year in a shot heard round the world at members of the LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender) community, with passage of a statute in Russia outlawing propaganda near minors regarding non-traditional sexual relations. The measure was criticized globally for potentially making it illegal to display of gay pride symbols, such as the rainbow flag.
With Putin’s protestation, that people with “non-traditional” orientation were not discriminated against at all, still echoing in global ears, the Olympic torch arrived in the town of Voronezh on its way to Sochi. Much of the Voronezh’ citizenry were lined up along the street to view the torch as it passed. Among them was Pavel Lebedev, who proceeded to unfurl a rainbow pride flag, and was promptly wrestled to the frozen ground by security personnel. It was just the first of numerous actions taken by Olympic security people and Russian police ensuring that Sochi will be remembered as the gay Olympics, even as tonight’s closing ceremonies honor the athletes’ accomplishments.
Comedy Central’s Colbert Report grabbed the pride flag and swishingly waved it in Russia’s collective face by selecting as its Olympic commentator actor Scott Thompson. Thompson (known widely as Budderick “Buddy” Cole) is a former cast member of the show Kids in the Hall. Thompson has described his Buddy Cole character as being “butch queen.” Colbert dispatched Cole to advise the American men’s speed skating team on how to appear not gay.
Cole warned the speed skaters that their tights simply screamed gay propaganda. He also suggested one team member lose the Justin Bieber style haircut, because it looked a little lesbian.
The ladies of Russian punk band Pussy Riot got in on the LGBT action with a song that included the lyrics, “gay pride sent to Siberia.” The women have been very outspoken in their support of Russia’s LGBT community. Sochi police, assisted by a team of whip-lashing Cossack militiamen, harassed and repeatedly detained the band members, which served to amplify Pussy Riot’s protest against repression of human rights in Russia.
Italian transgender advocate, Vladimir Luxuria, was hustled out of Olympic Park for donning a rainbow headdress.
President Obama also took the opportunity to diplomatically protest Russia’s discriminatory law by: (1) not attending opening ceremonies; (2) sending a lower level diplomat to represent the United States, Deputy Secretary of State William Burns; and (3) including two openly gay Olympians in the American delegation, including tennis legend Billie Jean King.
King has long been an outspoken proponent of LGBT equality. The Grand-Slam champion arrived in Sochi on Sunday as a representative of the U.S. for the closing ceremonies. She encouraged Russia’s LGBT community to hang on, saying, “You’re not alone.”
Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee criticized who avoided Sochi of playing politics with the Olympics. King responded sharply to his remarks, saying, “Politics are in everything.” She declared that the Olympic Charter should be changed to forbid discrimination based on sexual orientation.
King, who is 70, was not able to attend the games prior to Sunday, due to the death of her mother, Betty Moffitt. However, her presence for tonight’s closing ceremonies will help to ensure Sochi will be remembered as the gay Olympics.
Opinion By Melissa Roddy