I think the IAAF and the Olympics have a real problem on their hands. It seems that the athletic world may have discovered human rights, and self-respect, and respect for their fellow athletes, and they like it.
Two female Russian athletes, Kseniya Ryzhova and Tatyana Firova, who just won the 4×400 meter relay world championship in Moscow, decided to kiss on the lips on the winner’s podium yesterday.
What remains unclear is whether they intended the kiss as a protest Russia’s draconian anti-“gay propaganda” law that pretty much bans anyone in the country from being openly gay. While Sky News and others think the kiss was intentionally political, others are less sure.
Of course, isn’t that ambiguity exactly the problem behind Russia’s new law? It’s unclear what exactly is gay propaganda, thus leaving it up to the judgment of bigoted local officials. This is the same problem the International Olympic Committee, and all national Olympic Committees face, defining illegal “gay propaganda.”
When is being gay a political statement, and when is it simply being gay. Is being out a political statement? What about holding hands with your same-sex husband in public? Or acknowledging your same-sex spouse while giving an interview to the media. What if you win the gold medal, and the first time your spouse sees you after your victory, he or she gives you a big happy kiss – is that propaganda? It wouldn’t be if you’re straight, but if you’re gay, it seems it just might be.
And how about wearing the Star of David – which could be taken as a sign of Jewish pride – or wearing a cross (Christian pride). Are those forbidden along with wearing rainbows? Not to mention, are rainbows now banned by the Olympics? You had better bet that the Russian authorities will be confiscating every rainbow they find on foreigners entering the country for the Olympics.
But to paraphrase the narrator on the Grinch: No one can stop the rainbow from coming. All you need is six different colors of anything – lipstick, paper, nail polish – and you’ve got yourself a rainbow flag. Really, all you need is an internet connection and a printer.
And God forbid it rain, followed by a rainbow. Putin might just have to arrest God.