With the 2014 Winter Olympics set to take place in Sochi, Russia, from Feb. 6 through Feb. 23, political rhetoric is beginning to heat up. Gay rights in Russia have been a hot-button issue leading up to the Winter Games, and Russian president Vladimir Putin made his stance clear on Jan. 17.
According to Shaun Walker of The Guardian, Putin was careful to explain the distinction between Russia's feelings on gay relationships and "homosexual propaganda" in comments to Russian agencies:
We do not have a ban on non-traditional sexual relationships. We have a ban on the propaganda of homosexuality and pedophilia. I want to underline this. Propaganda among children. These are absolutely different things– a ban on something or a ban on the propaganda of that thing.
Even so, Putin's comments were controversial in that he put homosexuality and pedophilia in the same category. Putin assured the media that homosexuals would be treated fairly in Russia during the Olympics as long as they don't provide children with homosexual propaganda.
"We are not forbidding anything and nobody is being grabbed off the street, and there is no punishment for such kinds of relations," Putin said. "You can feel relaxed and calm (in Russia), but leave children alone please."
Putin's comments have already sparked outrage from some, including CNN's Piers Morgan:
Putin also continued to defend Russia's policy regarding such propaganda by linking it to the country's deep-rooted values:
What, are we supposed to follow along like obedient lapdogs, towards whatever consequences await? We have our own traditions, our own culture. We have respect for all of our international partners and ask that they also respect our own traditions and culture.
It became clear during the summer of 2013, when Russia passed its anti-gay propaganda legislation, per CNN's Laura Smith-Spark, that it would be a huge point of contention between competing nations at the Olympics.
The United States recently made a statement of its own when it decided to send three openly gay athletes to Sochi as part of its Olympic delegation, per Garance Franke-Ruta of The Atlantic.
Despite the fact that the Olympics are about the entire world competing in sporting competitions above all else, it is inevitable that political issues will take center stage.
Gay rights have come to the forefront ahead of Sochi, and they will almost certainly continue to make headlines as the 2014 Winter Games draw closer.
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