News, Politics, Sports

Winter Olympics Spark Discussion Of Gay Rights

The LGBT flag map of Russia. Image: derivative work: Fry1989
The LGBT flag map of Russia. Image: derivative work: Fry1989

The Olympics are about athletics and competition.

However, with representatives from so many different countries coming together in one city, it is often about “politics” and “political issues” as well.

(In this case, “politics” means “activities related to the governing of a country.”)

In other words, different countries have different rules, laws and beliefs.

Sometimes, countries’ beliefs clash.

That has been the case in Russia at the Sochi Winter Olympics.

In Russia, it is illegal to promote—in other words, say you support—being gay.

Russia has a law against “gay propaganda.” In other words, supporting people’s right to be gay is a crime there.

According to the website Wikipedia, in Russia it is “illegal to suggest that gay relationships are equal to heterosexual relationships or to distribute material on gay rights.”

That law conflicts with the way many countries view being gay: as a human right.

The Olympics have a “charter”—a written list of values. In its charter it says:

The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.

Many countries that brought athletes to the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia worried that their gay athletes would be discriminated against (bullied), or worse.

Some people wanted the Russian Olympics to be boycotted (in other words, they wanted countries to refuse to participate in the Russian Olympics) because of the law.

Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, assured people that no athletes would be discriminated against during the Games.

However, Russia tends to be one of the most intolerant countries in the world towards gay people. Same-sex marriages are not allowed there.

There are other countries that are intolerant towards the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community. However, the spotlight is on Russia because of the Olympics.

Some people are using the event to try to increase awareness about gay rights.

By Kathleen Tilly

Writing/Discussion Prompt
What are human rights? In your opinion, what should all people in the world have the right to?

Reading Prompt:
There are a lot of challenging issues and situations explained in this article.What is your reaction to the situation in Russia?

What are some of your personal thoughts on the following questions:
1. Do you think the Olympics should be boycotted because of Russia’s law?
2. Do you think politics should be part of an international sports event, such as the Olympics?
3. Do you think that the Olympics should be held in countries that don’t have human rights laws that protect all people?

Develop interpretations about texts using stated and implied ideas (OME, Reading: 1.5).

Develop and explain interpretations of increasingly complex or difficult texts using stated and implied ideas from the texts to support their interpretations (OME, Reading: 1.5).

Language Feature: Quotation Marks
Quotation marks are used several times in this article. How are they used and how to they help you to understand the text?