Germany's 2014 Sochi Olympic Team made a powerful political statement as they stepped out in their new uniforms ahead of the Winter Games next February -- but did they even intend to?
The athletes premiered their chosen uniforms in an Oct. 1 runway show in a design that German Olympic skier Daniel Bohnacker labeled "trendy," Spiegel Online is reporting. The colorful outfits sparked immediate speculation on social media over whether the Olympic team was engaging in a silent form of protest over Russia's anti-gay "propaganda" law, which has enabled a culture of fear and violence directed at the country's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
The German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB), however, is disputing claims that the uniforms hold any political weight or pro-gay message, with spokesperson Christian Klaue reportedly stating that "the uniforms are not a protest." General Director of the DOCB Michael Vesper felt similarly, insisting that "this is just a fashionable jacket."
The irony of using rainbow colors in conjunction with 2014 Winter Games also appears to be lost on the head of the Sochi Olympics, Russian Dmitry Chernyshenko -- who is a big fan of the Olympic-sponsored rainbow mittens, America Blog points out.
With protests at Russia's 2014 Olympic Games declared illegal and met with threats of legal consequences, many have called for alternative forms of protest at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games in an effort to counter and bring awareness to the country's institutionalized homophobia. These have ranged in extremity and impact from same-sex hand holding, to wearing rainbow nails, to boycotting the Olympics entirely.
What do you think about these uniforms -- subversive political messaging, or just a bold and bright fashion statement?
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"The human rights stuff that's going on, there's a potential for it to be an incredibly negatively-overshadowed Olympics," the two-time gold medal winning snowboarder told the Associated Press. Of his gay friends in snowboarding, he noted, "They're wonderful human beings, and I think for them to be discriminated against is a crime." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/12/seth-wescott-russia-gay-law-_n_3913225.html" target="_blank">Read the full story here</a>.
The Material Girl sparked controversy when she spoke out in defense of Russia's LGBT community during a St. Petersburg stop on her MDNA World Tour last year. Performing in black lingerie with the words "No Fear" scrawled on her bare back, Madonna urged the audience -- most wearing pink wrist bands distributed at the door -- to "show your love and appreciation to the gay community." "We want to fight for the right to be free," she said at the time, Reuters reported. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/09/madonna-st-petersburg-russia-gay-rights_n_1762135.html" target="_blank">Click here for the full story</a>.
The U.S. figure skater (pictured on left, with husband Victor Voronov) has spoken out against a planned boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, warning that those hurt most would be the athletes who have "dedicated their lives to possibly having their lone life-changing moment." "The Olympics are not a political statement, they are a place to let the world shine in peace and let them marvel at their youthful talents," he wrote. "I respect the LGBT community full heartedly, but I implore the world not to boycott the Olympic Games because of Russia’s stance on LGBT rights or lack thereof." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/26/johnny-weir-russia-olympics-boycott-_n_3659423.html" target="_blank">Click here for the full story</a>.
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The Olympic diving champion rejected the possibility of a boycott against the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia in a Policymic editorial. "Boycotting sends the wrong message and will only harm the hard-working athletes set to compete in the 2014 Olympics, not the Russian government itself," he wrote. "I know from personal experience. My first Olympics I won Silver at age 16, and then in 1980, at the height of my diving career, President Jimmy Carter opted to boycott the 1980 Olympics in Moscow as a method of protesting the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan. The toll on fellow athletes and me was devastating." <a href="http://www.policymic.com/articles/58481/i-m-an-openly-gay-gold-medalist-and-i-reject-the-sochi-olympics-boycott" target="_blank">Click here for the full story</a>.