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Dublin: 10 °C Thursday 17 April, 2014

Pole vault champ Yelena Isinbayeva condemns homosexuality

Some of the world’s top athletes have responded angrily after Isinbayeva came out in support of Russia’s controversial anti-gay law.

Image: Matt Dunham/AP/Press Association Images

WORLD POLE VAULT champion Yelena Isinbayeva has condemned homosexuality and criticised competitors who painted their fingernails in rainbow colors to protest a new anti-gay law in Russia.

The Russian, who won her third world title in front of a boisterous home crowd on Tuesday, came out in favor of the law which has drawn sharp criticism and led Western activists to call for a boycott of next year’s Winter Olympics in the Russian resort of Sochi.

“If we allow to promote and do all this stuff on the street, we are very afraid about our nation because we consider ourselves like normal, standard people,” Isinbayeva, a two-time Olympic champion, said in English.

We just live with boys with woman, woman with boys.

Everything must be fine. It comes from history. We never had any problems, these problems in Russia, and we don’t want to have any in the future.

At least two Swedish athletes competed with their fingernails painted in rainbow colors at Luzhniki Stadium, the venue that also hosted the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

Emma Green Tregaro, who won a bronze medal at the 2005 worlds, posted a picture of her fingers on the social media site Instagram, saying “Nails painted in the colors of the rainbow.” She followed that with several hashtags, including “#pride” and “#moscow2013.”

“The first thing that happened when I came to Moscow and pulled my curtains aside was that I saw the rainbow and that felt a little ironic,” Green Tregaro said in a video posted on the website of Swedish newspaper Expressen.

“Then I had a suggestion from a friend on Instagram that maybe I could paint my nails in the colors of the rainbow and that felt like a simple, small thing that maybe could trigger some thoughts.”

Swedish sprinter Moa Hjelmer ran in the 200-meter heats with nails painted in the rainbow colors.

“Some teammates have done the same,” Sweden team spokesman Fredrik Trahn said. “The federation has not discussed it. It is all up to the athletes.”

The IAAF, athletics’ governing body, said both opinions should be respected.

“The IAAF constitution underlines our commitment to principle of nondiscrimination in terms of religious, political or sexual orientation,” IAAF spokesman Nick Davies told The Associated Press.

“Allied to this is our belief in free expression as a basic human right, which means we must respect the opinions of both Green Tregaro and Isinbayeva.”

Green Tregaro, left, and Swedish team-mate Ebba Jungmark celebrate after the women’s high jump final (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Isinbayeva said it was wrong for the Swedes to make such a statement while competing in Russia.

“It’s unrespectful to our country. It’s unrespectful to our citizens because we are Russians. Maybe we are different from European people and other people from different lands,” Isinbayeva told reporters.

“We have our home and everyone has to respect (it). When we arrive to different countries, we try to follow their rules.”

American middle-distance runner Nick Symmonds, who won the silver medal in the 800 meters Tuesday, assailed Isinbayeva for her comments.

“Oh, my god. I can’t believe she said that. It’s bad,” Symmonds told the AP.

For Yelena to come out and say we are normal, standard Russian citizens — I’m paraphrasing here — and we don’t stand for that.

I want to say to Yelena, ‘You understand a very large portion of your citizens here are gay and lesbian people. They are standard people, too. They were created this way. For you to tell them that they’re not normal and standard, that’s what we’re taking an issue with.’ That’s why we have to continue to demonstrate and to speak out against the ignorance that she’s showing.

Symmonds also said he dedicated his silver medal to his gay and lesbian friends, as he had said he would in a blog entry for “Runner’s World” before the championships.

“While I was here I wanted to focus on athletics. I wanted to win a medal. That was my job,” Symmonds said.

“Now that I’m done doing that job, if there’s something I can do, if this gives me a platform to voice my opinion and speak out about the atrocities that I’ve seen here, that’s what I’d like to do.”

Isinbayeva’s popularity in Russia is so great that she is to serve as “mayor” of one of the Olympic villages in Sochi. She is also an ambassador for the Youth Olympics.

Sochi organising committee spokeswoman Svetlana Bobrova said the body had no reason to comment on Isinbayeva’s statements about the painted fingernails.

“We like her and she is the mayor of the Olympic village,” Bobrova told the AP.

Russia’s new law does not explicitly ban participation in gay pride parades or promotion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality online, but anyone wearing a rainbow flag on the street or writing about gay relationships on Facebook, for instance, could be accused of propagandising.

The International Olympic Committee and FIFA have asked the Russian government for more clarification. It remains unclear if the new law will be enforced during the Sochi Olympics or World Cup.

– Chris Lehourites, Associated Press

Pics: Rob Heffernan celebrates with his world championship gold medal

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