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Posted by on Feb 14, 2014 in Featured, International, Society, Sports | 0 comments

Sexuality Continues to Be a Hot Topic at the Sochi Olympics

Steve Sack, The Minneapolis Star Tribune

Steve Sack, The Minneapolis Star Tribune

No one can say that the Sochi Winter Olympics has been without controversy. From the threat of terrorism to the questionable accommodations given to guests and journalists, this Olympics has been one of the more controversial in recent memory. Perhaps the most hot-button topic of the games has been the Russian government’s attitude towards gays. Russia recently passed a law against homosexuals in the country which made it illegal for them to give “gay propaganda” to young people.

In addressing homosexuals planning to attend the games, President Vladimir Putin said that gays were welcome to be a part of them but asked that they please not associate with the nation’s children. This statement sparked a great deal of outrage, particularly among human-rights and LGBTQ support groups. A few even decided to boycott the Sochi Olympics, and many are finding other ways to take a stance against Russia’s discriminatory policies. In particular, here are some details about a video released by the Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion.

Luge and a Gay Rights Video

The Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion recently created a video in support of gay rights at the Olympics. The video uses the Olympic event of doubles luge as its subject, and it contains the slogan “the games have always been a little gay. Let’s fight to keep it that way.” In case you’re unfamiliar with the sport, doubles luge is an event where one athlete essentially lies on top of the other as they race down the track.

The video shows two spandex-clad doubles lugers rocking back and forth in the sled before the race starts. This is a common practice in the luge start-up routine. However, in the video the motion is slowed down a bit and looks somewhat sexual. The song “Do You Want Me” is playing in the background.

The Response

Some athletes, specifically those who compete in doubles luge, thought the sport was taken out of context in the video and were unhappy with the result. According to the New York Times, one American athlete thought the video was little more than a mockery of doubles luge. He pointed out that any kind of human interaction, even a hug between father and son, can be construed as sexual if it’s put in slow motion and edited. Other athletes agreed that the video seemed to just be mocking the sport and felt that doubles luge had been the butt of jokes for too long. One brought up that comedians rarely make fun of football snaps or similar practices in other sports.

Another athlete felt that while jokes are nothing new, this one brought up a whole new issue that had nothing to do with doubles luge. He said he’s not going to read into it too much, as he has to focus on the competition, but he brings up an excellent point. While the Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion made the video to support the athletes, is it right to assume that competition itself is sexual in any way? Is it fair to target one sport in particular, when gay athletes are likely evenly spread throughout the different events? Furthermore, does it make sense to use a particular sport as an emblem for gay rights?

Effect on the Athletes

With all of the tumult surrounding the games, one has to wonder whether or not the conditions themselves affect the competitors. As mentioned above, there isn’t just social and political controversy in the games. There are also the conditions of the accommodations, the weather and the arenas themselves. Journalists and guests have tweeted that many of their hotels have limited water and are in need of serious metal roof repair. Furthermore, Sochi is much warmer than the areas the athletes are used to. The slopes have been melting, and while the staff is working as fast as possible to produce fake snow, conditions are still far from ideal.

Do you feel the political and environmental conditions are affecting the individual athletes? Either way, was it right for the Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion to involve athletes in their push for LGBTQ rights?