MOSCOW — Pole vault great Yelena Isinbayeva condemned homosexuality Thursday after criticizing competitors who painted their fingernails in rainbow colors to support gays and lesbians in the face of a new anti-gay law in Russia.
The Russian, who won her third world title Tuesday in front of a boisterous home crowd, 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.
Misha Japaridze, APRussia’s Yelena Isinbayeva celebrates winning the gold medal in the women’s pole vault final at the World Athletics Championships in the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013.
“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 Thursday 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 IAAF, the sport’s 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.”
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.”
Isinbayeva has set 28 world records in her career and won seven major titles, including gold medals at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics. She was part of the team that helped Russia win the right to host soccer’s 2018 World Cup. After winning her latest world title this week, Isinbayeva said she plans to take a break from the sport to have a baby.
Isinbayeva is also slated to serve as “Mayor” of one of the Olympic villages in Sochi and is an ambassador for the Youth Olympics.
Sochi organizing committee spokeswoman Svetlana Bobrova said the body had no reason to comment on Isinbayeva’s statements.
“We like her and she is the mayor of the Olympic village,” Bobrova said.
However, International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge says the Olympic body will consider whether Russian pole vault star Yelena Isinbayeva should be dropped as an Olympic ambassador following her comments about homosexuals.
Rogge says “this is something we will consider in due time.”
Isinbayeva is an ambassador for the Youth Olympics. She is also the “mayor” of one of two Olympic villages for February’s Winter Games in Sochi, an honorary but symbolic and visible role.
Isinbayeva spoke in defense of Russia’s law against gay “propaganda” after winning the pole vault at last month’s world championships in Moscow.
She condemned homosexuality and criticized two Swedish athletes who painted their fingernails in rainbow colors in support of gay rights.
The next day, Isinbayeva said her comments in English may have been misunderstood.
Personally I think they were perfectly understood.
- IOC may drop ambassador after anti-gay quotes (sportsillustrated.cnn.com)
- ‘Homophobic’ Russian Yelena Isinbayeva vaults into gay row (theweek.co.uk)