Russians plan Gay Games after Sochi Olympics

The Russian LGBT Sports Federation group is planning to hold the Russian Open Games in Moscow just days after the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. The group is inviting international athletes to come and support the event.

The  Russian Open Games are set to run from from February 26 to March 2, 2014, just after the closing ceremony of the Sochi Olympics, as noted by Viktor Romanov, the chairman of the board of Russian LGBT Sport Federation. In particular, the event is for Russian amateur sportspeople. Romanov said in an interview with AFP that, “we are starting on February 26 so that people who want to – sportspeople, officials, journalists-can travel from Sochi to Moscow to support us.”

Romanov, a retired investigator, founded the group with Konstantin Yablotisky, who is a high school teacher. They met at the 2010 Gay Games in Cologne.

Romanov insisted that the group is not breaking a controversial law signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in June that bans the promotion of homosexuality to minors. Romanov said, “the law does not cover us because we are not doing propaganda of homosexuality, but propaganda of sport and a healthy lifestyle.” The federation does not need to apply for permission from the authorities to hold sports event, unlike organizers of gay pride protests.

A new Russian law banning LGBT propaganda among minors has cast a shadow over the lead-up to the Olympics. Facing international backlash, Putin said in a statement that all would be welcome at the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, “We are doing everything-our organizers, athletes and fans-so that participants and guest feel comfortable in Sochi, regardless of nationality, race or sexual orientation.” 

Romanov called the Russian Open Games a response to Russia's homophobic climate, “We understand very well that with this difficult time that we are in, we can’t stand aside.”

One sportswoman who is expected to compete at Sochi, has supported the group, Romanov said. But the Russian competitors “have been banned from openly supporting the LGBT community,” he said.

Romanov added that the event “can only rely on those who are brave and aren’t afraid and don’t depend on the government.”