Whether you are watching the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, or not, one thing is for certain about this year’s games: Germany deserves a high-five.
Many countries have been trying to find ways to object the Russian government’s stance on anti-gay policies adopted in the last few years. For the US, former Olympic athletes who identify as a member of the LGBT community have been sent over to Sochi to support those in Russia who do not have the freedom to express their sexuality. Debbie Harry, who was asked to perform at a 45-minute set during the Olympics, turned down the offer due to concerns of civil rights in Russia. Cities in Canada including Vancouver and Montreal will raise the rainbow-colored pride flag over their buildings during the events, and England’s women’s football captain has come out as gay in support of the games.
While many other countries and athletes have been struggling to find a way to protest Russia’s anti-gay policies while still being able to compete in the games, Germany seems to have come up with a fashionable rebuttal.
Photos of the German teams’ uniforms presented the athletes sporting colorful, rainbow jackets and multi-toned pants for the games in Sochi. Designer Willy Bogner states that the uniforms “were created using specific colors and materials specifically tailored to the conditions in Sochi.”
The German uniforms for Sochi have led many to believe that their colorful apparel was a direct dissent against the anti-gay laws recently passed in Russia. These laws state that any police officer can arrest any tourist or foreign visitor that they suspect of being part of the LGBT community or being “pro-gay.”
Although the German Olympic Sports Committee has denied that the uniforms directly support the gay community in Russia, their choice of color and pattern has had a deeper resonance throughout the world.
Whether or not the selection of rainbow jackets was accidental, I believe that Germany is still showing much-needed support from their apparel. The difference between Germany’s method of rebellion and other countries’ choices of protest lies in their technique: by wearing the colors of the rainbow on their uniforms, Russian authorities at the sporting events will be constantly bombarded with imagery of pride among the German athletes.
Although many believe that it’s not worth protesting Russia’s stance on LGBT rights, I believe that athletes and activists need to stand up for the rights of those who cannot openly and freely express their voices. These supporters should not have to cause a riot or ruckus during the winter games; they must, however, stand up for civil rights in the country that they are competing.
Through their choice of color and attire, Germany is standing up, whether accidentally or not, for the rights of the gay community in Russia. They might not be causing turbulence or anarchy in Sochi, however, their colorful garments are certainly pushing Russia’s envelope.
While Russian anti-gay policies may or may not change after this year’s winter Olympics, I believe that Vladimir Putin and other government officials will truly consider their stance on their recently passed legislations. Germany deserves applause for their decisions, whether or not they were intentional.