Tokyo 2021 has seen more out athletes competing than in any previous Olympic Games. While this fact has been widely celebrated across the world, some of the media in certain countries, such as Russia, have had negative responses, targeting LGBTQ+ Olympians throughout the competition.
Russia’s two most popular television channels have featured hosts and guests insulting athletes with an array of offensive language and mockery. The state-run networks have dedicated chunks of their airtime to belittling LGBTQ+ Olympians and broadcasting the slander across screens.
Gay diver Tom Daley and trans weightlifter Laurel Hubbard have been particular targets on Russiya 1. Russian parliament member, Alexei Zhuravlyov, appeared as a panellist on the network, saying he was “disgusted” by gay and transgender people.
Referring to Hubbard, he announced, “We stand opposed to all this smut and perversion, strongly opposed.”
“We stand against this abomination,” he continued.
The slander against LGBTQ+ Olympians continued on Channel One – the second most-watched network in Russia and the official broadcast partner of the International Olympics Committee (IOC).
Host of Time Will Tell, Anatoly Kuzichev, appeared on the show on July 26 wearing a wig and mocking Laurel Hubbard, going on to call transgender people “psycopaths”.
A representative for the IOC told the BBC that they have been in contact with Channel One “in order to get clarity on the situation and to underline the Fundamental Principles of the Olympic Charter”.
In a separate statement, they said that “Discrimination has absolutely no place at the Olympic Games.”
Russia was banned from the Tokyo Olympics after committing acts of state-sponsored doping. However, more than 300 Russian athletes are still competing in the Games under the Russian Olympic Committee, with no use of flags or anthems permitted.
Under Putin, the country has been a very hostile place for LGBTQ+ people. It is illegal to promote nontraditional sexual relations to minors by any means including press, TV, radio, internet, etc.. Homophobic and transphobic sentiments, on the other hand, are often projected, with legislators continuously working against the queer population.
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