The laws ratified by Russian President Vladimir Putin last June prevent anyone from giving any information about homosexuality to people under 18 or portraying homosexuality in a positive manner.
On the eve of the games last Friday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon delivered a message that criticised Russia’s laws.
“We must all raise our voices against attacks on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex people,” he said.
“We must oppose the arrests, imprisonments and discriminatory restrictions they face.
“The United Nations stands strongly behind our own ‘free and equal’ campaign, and I look forward to working with the IOC, governments and other partners around the world to build societies of equality and tolerance. Hatred of any kind must have no place in the 21st century.”
The comments from the UN Secretary-General came as media companies, including The Guardian, New Statesman magazine, Britain’s Channel 4 and online giant Google all altered their logos to include a rainbow motif.
“The practice of sport is a human right,” a message on Google’s landing page stated.
“Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.”
On the night of the games’ opening ceremony, it was the German national team who stole the show with what has been interpreted as a subtle sartorial support for LGBTI rights, as they entered Fisht Olympic Stadium donning a vibrant uniform of rainbow colours.
An online advert produced by the Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion and Toronto based ad agency Re-think also went viral over the weekend. The ad has two male sledgers thrusting in time to the 1980s anthem Don’t You Want Me by The Human League as they prepare to begin luge sledging. It closes with the message: “The games have always been a little gay. Let’s fight to keep them that way”.
The Australian team’s only openly gay athlete, Belle Brockhoff, meanwhile will take to the slopes on the evening of February 16 (AEST) for the heats and finals of the snowboard cross event in which she has a good chance of winning a medal.
In the weeks leading up to the games, Brockhoff has been one of the most outspoken athletes on the rights of LGBTI people in Russia and even promised reporters upon arriving at Sochi’s airport last week to “rip on Putin’s ass”.
“Hopefully if I get a medal I’ll be able to use that as a platform to point these things out and hopefully get a change,” she said.
“But you know, if I don’t get a medal not many people will want to listen to my opinion.”