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New Zealand vows to protect gay athletes, fans at 2014 Sochi Olympics

October 21, 2013|By David Wharton
  • New Zealand speed skater Blake Skjellerup, shown competing in the 2010 Winter Olympics, says he plans to compete as an openly gay athlete at the 2014 Sochi Games.
New Zealand speed skater Blake Skjellerup, shown competing in the 2010… (Alex Livesey / Getty Images )

New Zealand speed skater Blake Skjellerup plans on competing as an openly gay athlete at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and has said he will wear a rainbow pin on his uniform.

That would put him in defiance of Russian legislation that outlaws public displays of support for gay rights. But Skjellerup will have the backing of his own government.

New Zealand officials say they will appoint a member of their Moscow embassy to ensure that Kiwi athletes and fans are not targeted by the controversial anti-gay laws.

"The embassy is continuing to monitor the human rights situation in Russia and is working closely with like-minded missions on this," Louisa Wall, a lesbian member of parliament, told insidethegames.biz.

The Russian law threatens prosecution for anyone who promotes gay rights in the presence of minors or in public displays such as parades or demonstrations. It has sparked international criticism, but the International Olympic Committee has expressed confidence that it will not be an issue at the upcoming Games.

Wall, who has campaigned for gay marriage in her country, said: "The right of all our New Zealand team members to fully express themselves within the context of the Olympics, an international institution of such esteem, is fundamental to our full participation as equal citizens in the world."

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