Google makes a point on gay rights at Sochi Games

SOCHI, Russia Fri Feb 7, 2014 2:39am EST

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SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Google has placed a rainbow version of its logo on its search page, increasing pressure on President Vladimir Putin over Russia's "gay propaganda" law at the Sochi Winter Olympics.

The page now shows a winter sports competitor above each of the six letters in the U.S. Internet giant's name, set against backgrounds in the six colors on the gay pride flag - red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple.

The page also includes a quote from the Olympic charter underlining the right to practise sport without discrimination.

"The practice of sport is a human right. 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," it says.

Google Inc. did not immediately comment.

The international outcry over the law, signed by Putin last year, threatens to undermine his hopes of using the Games to portray Russia as a modern state that has come a long way since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

Putin says the legislation, banning gay propaganda among minors, is needed to protect young people. Critics says it fosters a climate of discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) groups.

Telecoms company AT&T, a sponsor of the U.S. Olympic team, criticized Russia this week over the law, increasing pressure on other companies to speak out.

The Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT rights organization, praised Google for what it called a move to show solidarity with LGBT Russians and visiting athletes.

"Google has once again proven itself to be a true corporate leader for equality," HRC President Chad Griffin said.

"Alongside Olympic sponsors like AT&T, Google has made a clear and unequivocal statement that Russia's anti-LGBT discrimination is indefensible. Now it's time for each and every remaining Olympic sponsor to follow their lead. The clock is ticking, and the world is watching."

PRESSURE ON SPONSORS

Companies including McDonald's, Coca-Cola and Procter & Gamble pay around $100 million each for rights to sponsor the Olympics over a four-year period and want to tap into a feel-good atmosphere during the Games.

These companies are also facing pressure to speak out over the "gay propaganda" law.

"These brands have spent millions to align themselves with the Olympics, but have repeatedly refused to support the founding principles of the Games," Andre Banks, one of the founders of gay rights group All Out, said earlier this week.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned sexual discrimination and attacks on homosexuals in a speech to the International Olympic Committee in Sochi on Thursday which also drew attention to Russia's record on gay rights.

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak said shortly afterwards in Sochi that there would be no discrimination at the Games, due to open later on Friday.

"We're all grown-ups and every adult has the right to understand their sexuality," Kozak said. But, echoing a remark by Putin, he added: "Please do not touch kids."

(Reporting By Timothy Heritage)

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Comments (4)
juggernaut wrote:
The US president has only recently evolved his thinking publicly. It is a little unfair to chastise others for effectively doing what you were doing until very recently. Please understand that this is in relation to gay rights only and there are possibly other issues.

I do not see Google showing a special doodle in southern states to reprimand their suppression of votes and overt/covert racism. It is much easier to throw stones at those who you are not doing business with. Isn’t that one of the benefits of global trade (more peace)?

Feb 07, 2014 6:50am EST  --  Report as abuse
juggernaut wrote:
I did not mean to single out Google, none of these businesses spent money actively to campaign against other ills, especially domestically. None of these corporations sponsored suits to challenge the discriminatory treatment of their employees by the tax code (I understand they may not have standing, but they did not weigh in on either the lawmakers or in public).

Let us give time to others to fix their issues themselves and be kind in our criticism so it is constructive and we do not have reactionary outcomes. We’d like others to do the same for us.

Feb 07, 2014 6:54am EST  --  Report as abuse
nirvichara wrote:
Garbage anti-Russian article, as usual, from a Cold War monster Timothy Heritage

Feb 07, 2014 9:40am EST  --  Report as abuse
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