Should you not be a hermit living under a particularly large rock in Outer Mongolia, leader of an Amish commune, or just a technophobe extraordinaire, you’ve likely noticed Google’s two footed leap into the Sochi gay rights debate earlier today. With their rainbow doodle, and emphasis on the fourth principle of Olympism, we’ve witnessed a rather surprising move from what is usually an apolitical company. Similarly, the giant US mobile provider AT&T yesterday condemned Russia’s gay-propaganda law, with official Olympic sponsor Coca-Cola showing a married gay couple in their recent Super-bowl advert, though have yet to condemn the Russian government outright. Closer to home, Channel 4 have incorporated the rainbow flag into their logo for the duration of the games, and have produced a gay cabaret performance (shown below), where a bearded man in his boxers sings to the tune of the Russian national anthem… It is to be shown regularly over the next month.
As an openly gay man myself (albeit not the greatest fan of the Gay Liberation Front), I find the sincere solidarity of these free individuals with the LGBTQ rights movement genuinely heartwarming. The raised awareness for the cause of equal rights, an appreciation for the distance we have travelled as a society in the past fifty years, and a better understanding of the day-to-day persecution faced by others around the world have all developed considerably over past months. And they’ve all come as the result of the pet-project of one man.
Despite rumors of shoddy building, widespread corruption and that the games are likely to provide a significant financial drain rather than benefit, Vladimir Putin has got his wish; the Winter Olympics are being held in his favorite city. And his drive, dedication, and single-mindedness has benefited nobody more than the global gay rights movement.
Because some Games stand out in history, for reasons both good and bad. We remember 1936 as Hitler’s Nazi showcase, 1968 for the Black-power Salute, 1972 for the Munich massacre, 1980 and for the international boycott. Sochi’s legacy? A struggle against homophobia and authoritarianism.
For Vladimir Putin has created an unintentional showcase of his own. While the mirrored buildings have been carefully sculpted to dazzle and impress, he has provided the perfect opportunity for movements opposed to his rule, from around the world, to unite around one single cause, and present their case on a global stage. Indeed, there a few events which last so long, touch so many people, and have such a legacy as the Olympic Games.
And for that very reason, today Vladimir Putin writes gay history.