As the eyes of the world gaze upon Sochi today for the opening of the 2014 Winter Olympics, the minds of many will be focused not upon the magnificent sporting achievements soon to be celebrated by Olympians from across the globe, but on the many controversies that have tarnished the Games before they have even commenced.
From allegations of corruption and embezzlement, to appalling conditions in official accommodations – including an absence of clean running water – media outlets and social networks have been overflowing with stories that portray Sochi 2014 in a less than flattering light.
But perhaps the greatest controversy is one that is much larger than the Games themselves – and one against which Google has today taken a very public stand with the ‘doodle’ on its homepage.
Today’s Google Doodle - which, notably, also features on the Google Russia homepage - showcases a selection of Olympic events, against a colourful backdrop that closely mirrors the rainbow flag, an international symbol of gay pride. Below this, Google included an excerpt from the Olympic Charter:
The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.”
Legislation introduced in Russia last year by President Vladimir Putin is, according to its proponents, intended to prevent the dissemination of homosexual “propaganda”, with the intention of protecting minors. But opponents of the laws claim that, in practice, they go much further, effectively subjugating all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and preventing them from any form of self-expression in public that does not conform with the state’s view of what is acceptable.
Many across the international community - individuals and organisations alike - have condemned Russia's anti-LGBT laws in recent months, adding to the controversy that has dogged the Sochi 2014 Games. Earlier this week, AT&T - partner of the US Olympic and Paralympic Team, and sponsor of the US Olympic Committee - spoke out against the legislation, calling it "harmful to LGBT individuals and families, and...harmful to a diverse society."
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