Editorial: Putin’s Olympics — Russian president’s stance on gays hurting his nation’s image
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Jan 17, 2014 | 2280 views |  0 comments | 30 30 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at his meeting with Olympic volunteers in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, Friday, Jan. 17, 2014. Putin says gays should feel welcome at the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, but they must "leave the children in peace." Putin told volunteers Friday that gays visiting Sochi "can feel calm and at ease," and vowed that there would be no discrimination at the games. But he emphasized that, according to a law banning homosexual "propaganda" among minors, gays cannot express their views on gay rights issues to anyone underage. Photo: RIA-Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Presidential Press Service/The Associated Press
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at his meeting with Olympic volunteers in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, Friday, Jan. 17, 2014. Putin says gays should feel welcome at the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, but they must "leave the children in peace." Putin told volunteers Friday that gays visiting Sochi "can feel calm and at ease," and vowed that there would be no discrimination at the games. But he emphasized that, according to a law banning homosexual "propaganda" among minors, gays cannot express their views on gay rights issues to anyone underage. Photo: RIA-Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Presidential Press Service/The Associated Press
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Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, seems to believe that allowing gays and lesbians into his country for the 2014 Winter Olympics will create an unhealthy environment for Russian children.

Putin’s homophobia is hardly veiled, particularly in light of a Russian law passed last year that criminalizes public support for gays and lesbians. But Friday, the former KGB agent told volunteers at an Olympic mountain venue that, in his words, “one can feel calm and at ease” about Russia’s views towards gays. Concerns about the safety of gay and lesbian Olympic visitors have been mischaracterized, he seemed to say.

Putin then said, “Just leave the kids alone, please.”

That’s the true version of the Russian president’s thoughts.

As the winter games draw near — they begin Feb. 7 — concern about Russia’s stance on gays is rapidly rising in the United States and its like-minded countries. Earlier this week, the U.S. State Department issued a warning for Americans traveling to the games in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi. The department wants gay Americans to follow the guidelines posted on its website, which advise travelers to practice “personal judgment and knowledge of local laws and customs.”

Putin, for his part, is proving incapable of setting a tone of equality and safety for gays who spend February in Russia, be they athletes, Olympic officials or spectators. That Putin quipped about keeping gays away from children — hinting at some unfounded, offensive, predatory trait — is nothing more than a homophobic slight inappropriate for a nation’s leader.

To his credit, Putin is a man soaked in Russian patriotism and pride, along with his rigid, Soviet-styled ideology. Now back under Putin’s guidance, the Kremlin is banking on the nation’s first winter Olympics to become a celebration of modern Russia, which, given the games’ scope, could happen.

What Putin doesn’t understand is that his stance on gay and lesbian rights is becoming a main theme of the games weeks before they begin. His comments Friday only make that stance more disconcerting, and disgusting, too. The world is watching to see how this former KGB agent welcomes Olympic visitors of all sizes, shapes and orientations.
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