Russia's government, it appears, has been given tacit approval for its anti-gay environment by, of all entities, the International Olympic Committee.
While the mascots of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics seem to be welcoming everyone into the games, members of the gay community are feeling less than welcome in Russia, where a new law seeks to ban LGBT gatherings and protests.
An IOC delegation went to inspect the facilities currently being constructed in and around the resort town by the Black Sea, and despite recent flooding that has turned much of the area into a muddy mess, reported that the finished venues were good as advertised.
"The spirit of the Games is awakening here; and the athletes, spectators and all others who visit next February can expect a fabulous experience," said the head of the delegation, Jean-Claude Killy. Killy, a former Olympic gold medalist in skiing, was also asked about a recent law passed by the Russian Parliament that sought to contain the spread of materials deemed to be homosexual propaganda among minors.
"As long as the Olympic Charter is respected, we are satisfied. This is the case," Killy told media after the inspection.
The new law has drawn criticism from the international sports and LGBT communities, who say that the law is discriminatory. Critics say that the law could be invoked on anyone voicing support for the sizable LGBT community in Russia, and in effect bans public demonstrations for gay rights.
An international advocacy group has spoken out on the law and its potential effects on gay athletes and spectators.
"If this law doesn't violate the IOC's charter, then the charter is completely meaningless," Chad Griffin, president of Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement issued after Killy's press conference. "The safety of millions of LGBT Russians and international travelers is at risk.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is touting the Sochi Winter Olympics as a showcase of Russia's economic growth. The venues themselves are engineering marvels -- a new stadium can seat 40,000 spectators, and Sochi's resorts and hotels are expected to accommodate a tourist inflow in excess of 120,000 people.
However, should the law be all that its critics have made it out to be, Sochi could very well be a showcase of something far more sinister.
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