On Tuesday 25 February, the Russian LGBT Sport Federation, the organisers of the event, was informed of the cancellation of several venues set to host the Open Games’ sporting competitions and cultural events in Moscow, including the Hilton Hotel.
The organisers were aware of potential barriers to host the event after government sports facilities showed reluctance in hosting an LGBT event, as an outcome of Russia’s anti-gay law, approved last June, banning the promotion of “non-traditional” sexuality – widely seen as an attack on gay rights.
Organisers allege governmental pressure
The organisers allege political pressure on the venues’ directors for the discontinuation of their contracts for the event.
“Our political leaders say there is no discrimination, but it is obviously discrimination when they stop us from having a sporting event” said Elvina Yuvakayeva, an organiser of the Open Games.
Yuvakayeva explained the reasons given by the hotel and venues were diverse.
Alexey Fonyatin, director of the Alan-Golyanovo sport complex where the volleyball competition was supposed to take place, said there had been a conflict with an event organised by the city.
A representative of the Baikal Hotel, where some participants were to stay, said no rooms would be available because a group of children had been unable to check out.
No applauses at the opening ceremony
The multi-day sporting event was scheduled to start on Wednesday (26 February), however a bomb threat forced the organisers to cancel the opening ceremony and change the venue.
In a statement the Fare member organisation Discover Football said:
“A few hours ago we arrived in Moscow in order to participate in the first LGTBI Games. But this morning the Russian government interfered and consequently all contracts with sports facilities and hotels were dissolved. The official opening ceremony was cancelled because of a bomb threat.”
“We are still determined to play football here and we will continue to support the event.” the organisation stressed.
Les Degommouses, another Fare member group competing in the Games, highlighted in a blog post the organisers’ willingness to face the adversities and host the event.
The same post also compared the improvised opening ceremony to a clandestine meeting, in which applauses were replaced by the Sing Language gesture for clapping hands and handshakes to avoid calling for further unwanted attention.
“The aim of these games is to send a positive message to our society and authorities that we are normal people and that we are ready for positive and constructive dialogue with them.” said the President of the Russian LGBT Sport Federation, Konstantion Yablotsky.
Earlier today, an ice skating workshop organised in the frame of the Open Games was cancelled by the police, who alleged technical problems to “pull all the participants from the ice”, said a Discover Football representative.
Among the event’s list of attendees is the American diver Greg Louganis, an Olympic champion who is openly gay, and the Dutch Minister of Sports, Edith Schippers.
The Games will feature eight competitions in badminton, basketball, futsal, skiing, swimming, table tennis, tennis and volleyball, and a cultural programme, including film screenings, psychology study groups and photo exhibitions.