Russia’s anti-gay laws hasn’t stopped one Olympic hopeful from pursuing his dreams. Speed skater Blake Skjellerup, who is open gay, is hoping to represent New Zealand at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi , Russia. According to CBS News on August 1, Skjellerup says he will be who he is and not hide his sexuality.
Russia’s anti-gay laws has lead to many Olympians threatening to boycott the games. But athletes like Skjellerup believe attending the games and representing the gay community will send a message to Russian lawmakers who said the law will be enforced at the Olympic Games. Skjellerup told CBS News that his presence will be important.
“I’m going to do my best to be in Russia. If I’m stopped at the border, I’m stopped at the border. My presence there is going to be important for me and important for the community and I guess we’re just going to have to wait and see.”
The International Olympic Committee said that is has received a promise from “the highest level of government in Russia that the legislation will not affect those attending or taking part in the Games.”
This, however, does not mean some form of the law will not be enforced. The law forbids any sort of public displays of affection or statements in support of gay rights. the law will allow for deportation of foreign nationals for what is deemed to be homosexual propaganda. This would include Skjellerup who is planning to wear a gay pride pin from the 2012 Olympic games while he is competing in Sochi.
Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko told a Russian news agency that a gay athlete isn’t banned from coming to Sochi, but “if he goes out into the streets and starts to propagandize, then of course he will be held accountable.”
The pin, if worn by Skjeelerup, would be a statement of gay in support of gay rights and a risk the speed skater will take to support who he is as a person and stand by his hard work as an athlete.
“I and the other athletes have worked very, very hard and to have that taken away from you would be truly devastating.”
That’s why he feels the presence of pro-gay athletes in Russia will make the biggest of statements to a government that is taking a step backwards when it comes to gay rights and expression.