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Pussy Riot Sentence Jeopardises the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games

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While today's sentencing of the Pussy Riot trio and the accompanying 100 year law banning Pride marches is devastating for many Russian citizens, it also jeopardises the integrity of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games, which will take place in less than two years. It may even be a bigger political issue than the complaints about China's entitlement to host the Games back in 2008 when Beijing staged the Olympics.

This is because there are many more visible activists who have stood on behalf of the Pussy Riot trio and who are visibly vocal in their rejection of the ruling. In comparison, China's capacity to silence dissidents forced the debates about human rights to the margins and obscured it from people's views once the Games began. There were not even any significant statements from athletes about the situation during the sports. While such statements would have compromised an athlete's position in their Olympic team, history has shown that, when issues matter a lot, then these conditions of participation may be less significant to athletes, who know they are also moral role models for their fans.

What's different about Sochi 2014 is that the issue of LGBTQ rights is much more alive and in the public domain within Russia than the human rights issue within China. Furthermore, at every Olympic Games, a Pride House is created - alongside the various national houses - and Russia's domestic law is likely to make this impossible. Furthermore, as a population, the athlete community is much more switched on and emotionally connected to the issues surrounding LGBTQ rights and freedom.

As such, the IOC should expect to see all kinds of protest during the Sochi 2014 Games, unless the Pussy Riot trio are released early. Indeed, Sochi 2014 could give rise to similarly historical statements as were made by USA athletes Tommy Smith and John Carlos back in Mexico 1968. It seems inconceivable that none of the many LGBTQ athletes will use their moment in the limelight to highlight an issue that some of their peers and friends within the Russian Olympic team will feel unable to raise. It even brings into question whether the Games should have gone to Russia at all, given the Olympic movements promotion of non-discrimination.

At this moment between the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, where there has been much talk about a one Games future, leaders within the Olympic movement should make statements of support for Russian LGBTQ athletes, if only to ensure that the IOC frowns on this kind of regressive decision.

While this undoubtedly will not come, in one year when plans to create a Pride House during the Sochi 2014 Games surface again, this issue will erupt and catch the Olympic movement unawares unless it acts first.