Pride House International Launches Same-Sex Hand-holding Campaign For Sochi Olympics
International coalition of LGBT sport and human rights groups call on everyone present in Sochi to show their commitment to the Olympic value of sport for all
Vancouver 14 August 2013
Today, Pride House International announced their Same-Sex Hand-Holding Initiative, a campaign that is part of the group's response to the International Olympic Committee's choice of Russia as host nation for the 2014 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.
In June 2013, the State Duma (Russian federal legislature) passed a law prohibiting "the promotion of non- traditional sexual relations among minors." This legislation makes any expression of real or perceived homosexuality - even something as innocuous as same-sex hand-holding - potentially illegal.
In the weeks since the bill passed, numerous activist groups have come forward in protest with various demands from a change of venue to a complete boycott.
"The very first thing the members of the Pride House International coalition did was to ask our Russian counterparts for their leadership on our campaign," said Lou Englefield, Director of Pride Sports UK and PHI coordinator. "Any response, no matter how well-meaning, would be inappropriate without the input of LGBT sportspeople in Russia". Konstanin Yablotskiy from the Russian LGBT Sports Federation is part of Pride House International, and was instrumental in conceptualizing the Same-Sex Hand-Holding Initiative.
As Yablotskiy explained, "Long after the 2014 Olympics, we in Russia will continue to live under this horrible law. For a few weeks we have the opportunity to bring the attention of the world to the situation in Russia. The Same- Sex Hand-Holding Initiative enables everyone to get involved with a simple yet iconic gesture. We know from gestures like Usain Bolt's lightning stance the impact of such images that are simple, replicable, and identifiable".
The campaign is simple: Pride House International is calling on everyone present in Sochi - athletes, staff, media, officials, spectators, sponsors, vendors, and fans - to take every opportunity to hold hands with a person of the same sex.
"There are extreme restrictions on the uniforms and other items worn by athletes at any Olympic Games. Flags, badges, or pins are not allowed without IOC approval, a near-impossibility, and wearing something as seemingly innocuous as pink socks or shoelaces is very difficult for athletes to do, and complex to organise for other participants and spectators," said the Federation of Gay Games' Les Johnson. "But everyone can hold hands with their neighbour. Indeed, raising your rivals' hands in camaraderie is an image we see on every podium at every sporting event."
Pride House International does urge anyone wanting to participate in the campaign to exercise caution. Hand- holding should happen only in public view with as many witnesses as possible, media and otherwise.
Same-sex hand-holding has an Olympic tradition with the organisation: A Day in Hand hosted a same-sex hand- holding relay through London as part of London 2012's Inspire cultural programme.
Materials in support of this campaign (posters, t-shirts, pins, and web badges) will be available starting by early October on the Pride House International website at pridehouseinternational.org.
Other supporting actions for the SSHHI campaign will be announced soon, as will other actions for visibility of LGBT sport during the Sochi Games.
Current signatories to this statement (more to follow at pridehouseinternational.wordpress.com):
Pride Sports UK, Pride House London 2012
Russian LGBT Sports Federation
Les Johnson and Marc Naimark Federation of Gay Games
United for Equality in Sports and Entertainment
founder of the 2010 Vancouver/Whistler Olympic & Paralympic Pride House
Football v Homophobia
Armelle Maze and Klaus Heusslein
European Gay and Lesbian Sports Federation
About Pride House International
Pride House International is a coalition of LGBT sport and human rights groups, including participants in past and future Pride Houses, united to promote the cause of equality in and by sport and the creation of Pride Houses at international sporting events.
What is a Pride House?
A Pride House is a venue welcoming LGBT athletes, fans, and others and their allies during international sporting events. Akin to the various national houses at such events, they are welcoming places to view the competitions, to enjoy the event, to learn about LGBT sport and homophobia in sport, and to build relations with mainstream sport. The first Pride House was organized for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver/Whistler, with others following in Warsaw (2012 UEFA Euro football cup) and London (2012 Summer Olympics). Pride Houses are planned for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, the 2015 Pan-American Games in Toronto, and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.