SOCHI, Russia: Demonstrations are planned in 19 cities worldwide on Wednesday seeking to persuade sponsors of the upcoming Winter Olympics to pull out over the country’s anti-gay laws.
The protest action in New York, Paris, Saint Petersburg and elsewhere comes the day after Russian President Vladimir Putin pledged that the Sochi games, which open Friday, will prove a hospitable event, amid a litany of concerns about its suitability as a venue.
Putin arrived in the Sochi region on Tuesday in typically confident mood, taking top International Olympic Committee members to meet leopards being bred in the Sochi region as part of a re-introduction program.
But analysts have said that Putin has staked his personal reputation on the success of the Games, which have been inextricably linked with his name ever since he spearheaded the successful Russian bid in 2007.
The Games have in particular been shadowed by concerns over the implementation in Sochi of a Russian law against “gay propaganda” to minors, as well as security concerns due to the proximity of the region to the violence-plagued Northern Caucasus.
US telecoms giant AT&T on Tuesday joined a growing international chorus of disapproval at Russia’s anti-gay law, as activists ramped up a global campaign for Olympic sponsors to boycott the Sochi games.
“We stand against Russia’s anti-LGBT law,” said AT&T, the biggest US cellphone and landline operator, in a blog on its corporate website.
Its statement came a day before the planned international demonstrations by LGBT activists targeting big-name Olympic sponsors such as McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Samsung, watchmaker Omega and Visa credit cards.
All Out, an international gay rights group, has announced the protests in 19 cities also including London, Rio de Janeiro and Durban, South Africa.