As the Opening Ceremony Begins, the Principal Six Campaign Targets Russia’s Anti-“Propaganda” Law
By Trevor Allen
The 52 Olympic athlete signatories of the “Principal Six” Campaign – named in honor of the clause of the IOC charter, which guarantees non-discrimination during the Olympic Games – have urged the Russian government to repeal its anti-“propaganda” law .
The P6 Campaign employs the language of the IOC charter to allow athletes to speak out against the anti-“propaganda” law before and during the Olympics without violating the IOC’s ban on political speech. A plethora of celebrity athletes have signed on, including Greg Louganis, the Australian bobsled team, and Martina Navratilova.
Megan Rapinoe, a women’s soccer gold medalist hailing from California, voiced her concerns to the Guardian: “I understand and respect that the Olympics are not the time nor place for political statements, but this is far beyond any kind of statement… People’s lives and their wellbeing are in danger, and that goes far beyond anything the Olympics stand for. I think it is important to talk about it and have an ongoing conversation during these games, and not have this issue silenced.”
Nicky Symmonds, an American runner who was awarded the silver medal last year at the world championships in Moscow, spoke about the horrific nature of this legislation: “I…spoke with members of the gay community in Russia who said they had been treated better under Soviet rule than they were currently being treated under Putin’s leadership, and wanted to lend my support in any way I could.”
LGBT athletes Billie Jean King, Brian Boitano, and Caitlin Cahow will take part in the U.S. delegation to the Sochi Olympic Games. Such a presence will diffuse Putin’s claims that the LGBT community is a devious and pedophilic collective. U.S. Olympic diver and athletic David Pichler, who traveled to Sochi as part of Human Rights First’ delegation, writes. “We will show Russians that the United States respects and honors its LGBT citizens, and that LGBT people are just that, people. We’re sons and daughters, activists and athletes.”
These LGBT athletes can amplify the voices of Russian LGBT activists who are denied entry into Olympic Park, or who are otherwise silenced. The IOC announced that participants would be able to make political statements during press conferences. Sochi 2014 chief executive Dmitry Chernyshenko disagreed with the ruling, saying that athletes who wished to protest such legislation must do so in a specified “protest zone” located 11 miles outside of the village.
Chernyshenko might not like what athletes have to say, but freedom of speech persists on the ice, the slope, and in press conferences at the Olympics. Any athlete can respond to a reporter’s question on the anti-“propaganda” law freely, anywhere in the Olympic zone, as long as they don’t turn their participation in the games into an act of protest or demonstration.
Statements such as Chernyshenko’s reveal that the Russian authorities are fearful that human rights activists will tarnish Russia’s image during the Olympics. But it’s the law the activists are targeting that tarnishes its image.
For more information on the Principle 6 campaign, visit www.principle6campaign.org. All funding will go toward Russian LGBT rights groups.
Competing LGBT athletes and ally signatories to the Principle 6 Campaign at the XXII Winter Olympic Games:
Ireen Wüst- Netherlands – Speed Skating
Sanne van Kerkhof- Netherlands – Short Track Speed Skating
Cherly Maas- Netherlands – Snowboarding
Barbara Jezeršek- Slovenia – Cross Country Skiing
Anatasia Bucsis – Canada – Speed Skating
Belle Brockhoff- Australia – Snowboarding
Signatories to Principle 6 Campaign:
Alex Duckworth- Canada-Snowboarding
Anastasia Bucsis- Canada- Long Track Speed Skating
Anthony Ryan- Australia-Bobsled
Astrid Rajenovic (Loch-Wilkinson) – Australia- Bobsled
Belle Brockhoff- Australia- Snowboarding (Cross)
Duncan Harvey- Australia- Bobsled
Gareth Nichols- Australia- Bobsled
Heath Spence- Australia- Bobsled
Jana Pittman- Australia – Bobsled
Lucas Mata- Australia – Bobsled
Mike Janyk- Canada- Alpine Skiing
Rosanna Crawford- Canada – Biathlon
Simona Meiler- Switzerland – Snowboarding (Cross)