100 days. 100 days until the Winter Games are underway in Sochi, Russia. Having been through more than one "100 day" countdown, I know that Opening Ceremonies will be playing on NBC before we know it. It still seems hard to believe that London was over a year ago. Seasons change, time passes and dreams are hanging, within reach, for many athletes to seize. But there's been controversy in Russia, because of their anti-gay laws, which affect athletes, reporters and spectators who are in a same-sex relationship.
In the U.S., a total of 14 states have passed a law saying same-sex marriages are legal, while 35 still say they are not. Many countries in Europe, such as Spain and France, are open to same sex relationships. Russia is not and earlier this year, enacted a law banning the exposure of “homosexual propaganda” to children. People worldwide feared it would threaten the rights of gay athletes, family members and reporters visiting Russia for the Winter Olympics.
As of yesterday, Vladimir Putin told Thomas Bach, the head of the IOC, that he is “doing everything, both the organizers and our athletes and fans,
so that participants and guests feel comfortable in Sochi, regardless
of nationality, race or sexual orientation.”
For the 2014 Olympics, many felt the United States and other countries should pull out of the games for the lack of consideration given to LGBT delegates from all over the world. Stateside, gay rights activists are calling on Olympic sponsors, who pay roughly $100 million for marketing rights, to create change. And the sponsors are concerned. Companies like Coca-Cola, Samsung and McDonald's pay big bucks to shine a positive spotlight on their brand, but this year, they've seen social media campaigns launched against them from activists voicing their concern over Russia's anti-gay legislation. Some activists say that large scale companies, such as Coca-Cola have the ability and the power to effect change. “We do not condone human rights abuses, intolerance or discrimination of
any kind anywhere in the world,” Coke said. “As a sponsor since 1928,
we believe the Olympic Games are a force for good that unite people
through a common interest in sports.”
Change.org has launched a petition against Coke, McDonald’s, Samsung, as well as Panasonic, Visa, Dow, and Procter & Gamble, demanding that the sponsors withdraw from the Sochi Olympics. A second petition, on the same site, is asking people join the cause in "asking the US team at the 2014 Winter Olympics to show their support for human rights by flying the gay pride colors at the opening ceremony in Russia."
What are your thoughts? After Mr. Putin's announcement yesterday, do you think the athletes and attendees are safe? Do the sponsors have a moral responsibility to the cause?