Friday, 7 February 2014

We've come a long way in twenty years

In 1991, the Universiade (what I still think of as the student olympic games) was held in Sheffield. Three years earlier, the Thatcher government had passed the contentious "Section 28", outlawing the promotion of homosexuality. Though there was rightly opposition to this, most people seeing it as code for discrimination against same-sex relationships in general, it remained on the statute book for another twelve years and its removal did not pass quietly. There were no international protests against a UK venue for the 1991 games on the grounds of the government's anti-gay stance. (Indeed, the only threat to the games was the lack of UK media coverage - in my view, politically-inspired because South Yorkshire was a Labour stronghold and it was a Labour council which had bid for the games.)

In 2014, the Winter Olympics have got underway in an underprepared Sochi. Because the ultra-conservative Putin administration has passed a law against the promotion of homosexuality, there have been protests in most other first-world nations and some developing countries also. National leaders have ostentatiously stayed away from the opening ceremony. And not even the most reactionary Tory has sought to reintroduce Section 28.

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