Vladimir Putin Expected The Olympics To Glorify Him. Here’s How LGBT Issues Rained On His Parade

Vladimir_Putin_12015The 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi were meant to be a celebration of Vladimir Putin —well, at least in Vladimir Putin’s mind they were. The whole world was coming to Russia to see the high-class showplace of efficiency that Putin (and a bunch of state-sanctioned oligarchs) have created. What could possibly turn this tightly controlled PR extravaganza into a debacle?

Rainbows. Or more specifically, anything and anyone having to do with them.

Without a doubt, LGBT issues have proven to be the most enduring problem for Putin and the Olympics. Putin probably expected to get some bad press about Russia’s viciously homophobic policies, and the arrests and the violence – often deadly — that inevitably accompanies them. What he probably didn’t expect was the steady drumbeat of criticism and outrage that is now inseparable from Olympics coverage.

Celebrities from Cher to Chris Pine have used their media platforms to condemn Russian homophobia. More than 50 Olympians, past and present, have signed a petition calling on Russia to end its antigay crackdown. 

Governments have gone on record warning Putin that he is being watched. Denmark’s Foreign Minister denounced Russian policy as “objectionable,” Even President Obama stuck him thumb in Putin’s eye — figuratively, of course — by ostentatiously selecting gay delegates as the U.S. representatives to the Games, prompting one of them, skater Brian Boitano, to finally come out.

Putin has made a few gestures to head off some criticism. He released from jail members of the punk band Pussy Riot who had been convicted of hooliganism after they staged a protest in Moscow in 2012.  Pussy Riot’s case had been sufficiently high profile in the West to cause Putin headaches, and their amnesty was clearly a sop to placate human rights groups.

But Putin’s heavy handedness undercut any positive press. His comments about keeping away from the children were guaranteed to inflame. Moreover, he hasn’t been helped any by his compatriots, whose efforts have been, if at all possible, even more ludicrous. When Sochi mayor  Anatoly Pakhomov insists that there are no gays in his town, he looks like an old-style Soviet denialist. And when Olympic security personnel are filmed tackling a gay teen for waving a rainbow flag, all they do is reinforce the true image that Putin would like to keep hidden.

And the highest visibility is still to come. As thousands of media representatives descend upon Sochi, they will be scouting for stories that will reinforce the image of Russia as a homophobe’s paradise. There are dozens of buzzsaws that Putin can walk into during the Games. NBC has committed to talking about LGBT repression as part of its Olympics coverage. All it will take is one incident at the Games, even a small one, and what’s gone before will look like a Valentine.

On some level, Putin doesn’t care what the West thinks. He never has and he’s not about to start now. In fact, Russians enjoy it when he thumbs his nose at the West. But the Olympics are also about what Russians think of Putin. Anything that darkens that image is bound to hurt. And for Putin, a lot of the dark clouds above him are lined with rainbows.


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    And now the guests are finding the Olympic Venue is a hospitality disaster with unfinished hotels. They are a traveler’s nightmare for a rundown rat holes, let alone new buildings.

  • balehead

    The real scandal is the US didn’t send a lot minority athletes because the the lack of endorsement revenues their wins would generate for the organization….Don’t be fooled…

  • Apparatus


    I’m trying to come up with a clever joke about how Russia should have just let the gays handle the interior design and planning but clearly I haven’t had enough coffee yet today. lol

  • fagburn

    ‘On some level, Putin doesn’t care what the West thinks. He never has and he’s not about to start now. In fact, Russians enjoy it when he thumbs his nose at the West…

    Thus rendering what else you write obsolete.’

  • robirob

    While Russian’s homophobia issue might be a nice and recent cause of friction I do believe there is still a bit of Cold War resentment present. It looks like not that many US citizens are travelling to Sochi (don’t know about the citizens of other countries though).

  • Caleb in SC

    It is not just Russian homophobia that is making the news. If you view the entirety of the news coverage about the Winter Olympics, Russia seems to have devolved into little better than a third world country.

  • Kenover

    Putin is a murderous thug and the Sochi Olympics harken back to the 1936 Berlin Olympics. I’m proud that President Obama’s administration isn’t sending any high-level officials — and British PM Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are also snubbing Vlad the Dictator — but I really think all people of conscience, gay and straight, should boycott this Putin Ego Fest.

  • glasshole

    And it’s not just going to stop at the GLBT issues… and those might actually be usurped by the horrifyingly unprepared city that visitors have found. Hotels aren’t finished, plumbing is 3rd world quality, workmanship is so shoddy on the buildings that have been viewed that many reporters fear for their safety. One person said they think the building they’re in could fall down.

    It’s not just the hotels, either… walking around town has revealed manholes with no covers in streets and walkways, railings not attached properly, windows not secure and even guard rails on stair cases not fastened to anything.

    Hackers have attacked every foreign phone and computer almost as soon as it’s connected, identities stolen and information taken.

    And let’s not forget the very real threats of terrorists that are about 200 miles away from the games.

    Trust me… this is going to be very bad for Russia and it’s only just starting.

    And good. Hope it ruins the whole country and makes a laughing stock out of every fucking one of them.

    And Johnny Weir because nobody can stand that freak.

  • Caliban

    Gay issues aside, most of the articles I’ve seen so far have been about how desperately ill-prepared Sochi is for the games. I don’t know about the sports venues themselves but the hotels and public spaces are a big ole mess and all that’s coming out is mockery. If this was supposed to show how effective Russia is under Putin then it’s a big fail.

  • Curtispsf

    @fagburn: Yeah…but Putin is going to be embarrassed on the world stage. And say what you want behind the anonymity of your keyboard, but no idiot would ever dare say that to my face. Special Forces in Afghanistan coward, you and you’re attitude are what’s obsolete. You mind me of the dinosaurs gasping for air as the world they knew crumbles down.

    They went extinct into the dustbin of antiquity…and so will you.

  • SteveDenver

    Nice article! It’s heartening that Putin sought glory and the world mirror revealed him to be an intolerant idiot with leaders worldwide recognizing just what a backward buffoon he is.

  • tada-no

    The author shot himself in the foot when he admitted that not Putin or Russians care about West’s criticism of their country on rights of LGBTs and rainbow parades in Moscow. What this Olympics has shown to us in the West is our weak standing and influence over corporations, media and politics. When it comes to business and profit, these tolerant and gay friendly corporations are quickly willing to throw us under the bus to earn a business license in Russia.

    Russia will worry more about the unfinished plumbing in hotel bathrooms than some sanitized 15 second mentioning of gays on NBC. Look at Wolf Blitzer’s/ CNN coverage of Putin’s Olympics. They mention everything from dangerous conditions for athletes to unfinished grass lawns and bathrooms in the Olympic village but not a single utter of LGBT rights issue.

  • jimbryant

    While I admire Queerty’s attempt to put a positive spin on the Sochi Games, the reality is that the mainstream media (CNN, NBC etc) have ignored Putin’s persecution of gay people. Wolf Blitzer in particular appears to have been less than adequate in his coverage of anti-gay Russia.

    If it were Jews who were the target of this law in Russia, I wonder what Blitzer’s attitude would be.

  • jckfmsincty

    Putin: Get a chin.

  • iMort

    @Curtispsf: Say what? that makes no sense…

  • mcflyer54

    With over 300,000 tickets still unsold, and a Russian population unable to afford them, it doesn’t appear as though the open arms of mother Russia are as welcoming to the rest of the world as Putin would like people to believe. Events will ultimately be packed with “ringers” bussed in to prevent worldwide broadcast of half empty arenas and grandstands.

  • JustSayin

    I heard Putin has had his scientific staff working full time, and they have come up with a medication that all gay athletes will be required to take. It’s called Trinoacetol (pronounced trynoassatall).
    Final approval is pending on the one for the
    Lesbian athletes: Tricoxagin

  • lancemullholland

    The press never seems to mention that Putin is basically a brass knuckles KGB “operative” (read: THUG) from the old days.

    George W went over there (as president) and yucked it up with him – while Putin smirked at him like he was a fool. As the New York Times reported, Bush was quoted as saying that he looked into Putin’s eyes and “I was able to get a sense of his soul”. Like “maybe we’ll be drinkin’ buddies?”, or “Darth Vadar/The Dark Side” kinda soul ?

    Putin openly admires and quotes Stalin (Sochi was Stalin’s Summer home, has a Stalin museum/shrine). Just the musings of a gay boy with a useless history degree: no one ever listens to us. ‘Nuff said !

  • sangsue


    So you hate women and Jews. Got it. I’m both so maybe I should just get out of YOUR country.

  • LadywithaLamp

    I thank the goddess of tech for [email protected]lancemullholland: Russia has a very unsavory history and it’s not just ex KGB running the government, organized crime is the other side of THAT coin.

  • IvanPH

    I am secretly hoping that this Olympics becomes a total failure of galactic proportions because that will be extremely humiliating to Putin and his administration!

  • Cam

    “”And when Olympic security personnel are filmed tackling a gay teen for waving a rainbow flag, all they do is reinforce the true image that Putin would like to keep hidden.”

    You forgot to add in that they were wearing Coke Logos and that Coke defended it trying to claim that the kid shouldn’t have been doing what he was doing.

    And don’t forget, the IOC was going to give the games to another city, then Putin made a visit, no doubt with cash in hand, and they gave the games to Sochi claiming it would be ready. Well it looks like that was a lie.

  • Stefano

    Don’t forget that Russia is one of the most corrupt country in the world…see there :

    The money of Sotchi will probably go to his friends to consolidate Putin’s power.

  • anitaha milton

    My Uncle Eli got an awesome 6 month old Cadillac CTS Sedan just by some part-time working online with a laptop. look these up…

  • rextrek

    ..from the reports coming out of Russia…Sochi – seems alot of people “Pocketed” the 50 Billion..instead of Putting the money actually INTO the OLYPICS venues……..this is gonna be a HUGE embarrassment for Putin, and we know whom he’s gonna Blame….the Gays.

  • scoobydube

    @tada-no: I, for one, will NOT be watching any coverage of the Olympics. So ALL that advertising money will NOT be well spent. And there’s the time difference between Sochi and the East Coast of the U.S. Vlad (the Impaler)bit off more then he could chew. Just saying …..

  • LadywithaLamp

    @scoobydube: Does it count if I DVR the ice skating..???

  • Mel

    @mcflyer54: With over 300,000 tickets still unsold

    That was the London olympics – with all the empty seats filled with soldiers and school children after day three

  • Mel

    @sangsue: So you hate women and Jews. Got it. I’m both so maybe I should just get out of YOUR country.

    Lots of haters here who have obviously never left their country. Canada would be too scary third world for them!

  • SteveDenver

    Puta gots “gay face.”

  • MK Ultra

    @Mel: Everyone, this character Mel is a russian troll.
    He said gays should go to Russia and get beat up.
    He said Russia has no homophobia.
    Obvious Russian troll is obvious

  • MK Ultra

    Russia is a third world dump
    The people are miserable and violent.
    Outside of Moscow and Petersburg it just crumbled infrastructure everywhere.
    The worst state in America is infinitely times better than Russia on its best day

  • MK Ultra

    @mcflyer54: It’s true.
    Sochi is one big failure already, and there’s more to come in the RussiaFail show!

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