As Sochi nears, expect a flourish of Russian leaders and key politicians on their best behaviour, but it won't make much difference.
Putin his foot in it
The Kremlin isn't known for being that adept at PR. Either coming from a place of not understanding Western perceptions, or simply not caring about them *this one*, official news from Russia often has people outside of the country aghast.
Case and point, President Putin's bid to allay fears that on the back of Russia's recent 'gay propaganda' law, not all will be welcome in Sochi. To do this, the country's premier issued a statement with the same tact as a Russian airhostess attempting customer service. He insisted that people visiting Sochi can feel "calm and at ease" and that there would be no discrimination. All good so far, but he didn't stop there. Obviously feeling the need to stress the underlying subversiveness of anyone not of the same ilk, he added the but- they must "leave the children alone". Great, so the message to anyone visiting Russia of said orientation, is to feel comfortable, but remember as soon as you pass a burly border guard looking something like mankind's missing link, you are henceforth a pariah, a walking, talking, touching, minor outing machine.
Enjoy your stay.
This may have been a slight PR blooper, but not to worry, Putin was again giving comment last Sunday, to set the record straight. This time he reassured the wider world that those from the LGBT community will be safe-why? Because he knows "some people who are gay" and is on friendly terms with them, even going as far as to say he likes Elton John... (not necessarily an endearing trait ). Once again he made sure to reassert this is for the kids.
But if Putin- and the politicians behind this bill- really are all about children's future, perhaps best to do something with one of the worlds few shrinking populations. Alcohol abuse, smoking, low life expectancy and a persisting problem with the spread of HIV and tuberculosis- might all slightly dwarf sexual orientation as a problem facing Russia's adolescents.
The extent of open homophobia can be attested to by an overall lack of domestic uproar, as an increasing number of public figures openly trash the country's LGBT community. Back in December Ivan Okhlobystin, a Russian actor in a medical sitcom based on 'Scrubs' commented during a discussion with fans about gays; "I'd put them all alive in the oven... it's a living danger to my children,". His words are yet to be officially condemned. Though extreme even in Russia, they reflect an opinion body of homophobia that Putin and his government courted with the country's 'gay propaganda law'.
The next month will see Russian politicians walk a tightrope between domestic and international audiences, with much more likely to get lost in translation -as the Games begin in earnest.