Amidst bomb threats and government pressure, LGBT Open Games kick off in Russia

The Russian Open Games have finally kicked off. Greg Louganis, four-time Olympic diving champion, is attending the Games as well. However, the LGBT-inclusive sports festival has had to weather last-minute venue cancellations, a bomb threat, and threats from anti-LGBT politicians who urged the event to be shut down by the government.

Konstantin Greg Louganis

According to Anastasia Smirnova, spokesperson for a coalition of Russian LGBT organizations, the opening was marred by a bomb threat. Open Games coordinators, Elvina Yuvakaeva and Konstantin Yablotskiy, held a press conference in a parking lot in front the police doing an explosives search.

Unlike the bomb threats that occurred during the Side By Side LGBT Film Festival in St. Petersburg, after the police checked the building, they refused to let participants enter.

"I would say that the important piece is that the opposition to the event is almost unprecedented," Anastasia Smirnova told GLAAD. "Hostels and hotels refused to accommodate people who had advance bookings, venues got calls from city administration (unofficial, of course), the police did explosive searches but still did not let anyone in."

Smirnova noted that in addition to the last minute cancellations, local restaurants refused to serve participants in the Open Games. She considered the fact that the Games were able to launch under such dire circumstances to be a victory.

"We cannot be sure about anything at this point," Anastasia said, "The fact that the press conference and the kick-off event have happened regardless of everything, is terrific."

The Russian Open Games are planned to continue until March 2, and they plan to persevere through such challenges. Media should continue to follow the Russian Open Games to see what sort of treatment LGBT people in Russia experience. 

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