As the Winter Olympics were getting closer, as Sochi became the lead story in the news for so many reasons: security, terrorism, corruption, conditions at the hotels in the area, freedom of the press and LGBT rights, I couldn't stop thinking, and wishing. Thinking about what was the right thing to do. Should I watch it? How can I take part in this Olympic event knowing what the host country stands for?
Also thinking: How could we make sure this mistake will not happen again? The Olympics are meant to symbolize fairness, dignity, compassion and inclusiveness. Russia should not have been picked to host any Olympic event, since it seems to oppose the basic principles of the Olympic spirit on multiple levels.
I was wishing for something to go wrong, an embarrassing moment that would expose Putin for the "leader" he isn't, shaming his politics and beliefs, showing the world that the king is naked (on the horse, or off it).
Four months ago in a N.Y.C. café, during a meeting with Love and Pride's new CEO and our PR person, in discussing Sochi, and what to do to elevate awareness for the situation, I was doodling and drawing the "Missing Link" logo on a napkin. A light bulb went off and we started planning our PR and marketing ideas, and designing the products to promote, sell, and raise money.
So we all went to work and in the last few months, produced over 5000 bumper stickers and 1,000 posters of protest, to send free to anyone that would commit to using and displaying them. I also designed the missing link pendant and a t-shirt to sell on the loveandpride.com's site, pledging to donate one hundred percent of proceeds to Immigration Equality's Russia Emergency Fund. We got thousands of people to join our campaign and hung hundreds of posters all over the country, even the world! We sold hundreds of pendants and t-shirts under the "missing link" campaign.
I was very pleased that we, and more importantly, our customers and friends, joined the fight to protest the anti-gay, anti-freedom, and anti-inclusion that Putin and Russia stand for, and the idea that we are having the winter Olympics in such a country.
On Friday February 7, the Winter Olympics's opening ceremony kick-started the already questionable Sochi Games, for the world to see the glory of Russia, and boost Putin's ego. As I was not planning to watch the ceremony, I was watching the news in my office, and the news opened up with the "Sochi debacle" of the five rings lighting, and one ring, the same missing one I drew four month ago, didn't light. For real!
My jaw dropped; I couldn't believe what I was seeing and hearing. This is the first story from the opening ceremony around the world? What a blow to Putin; what a blow to Russia's image in front of millions of people! After spending 50 billion dollars, and after seven years of preparation, at the crucial moment when the world was watching you? You dropped the ball, or rather, the ring. WOW!
So many thoughts ran through my mind:
1. Did God send us a sign?
2. Hey Putin, I know where the missing link is, I'm even wearing one; I can send you one.
3. Wishes do come true, I couldn't ask for a better statement -- Karma is a bitch!
4. Reality is stronger than fiction.
So I do hope this will send a message and a sign to the Russian people -- you must change your stance on human rights. You need to join the rest of the progressive world when it comes to freedom -- freedom to express yourself, freedom of the press, freedom to love and freedom to be proud of who you are.
The light debacle was a sign. If it was not God (I will never know that), it was the energy of millions of people in the LGBT community, as well as their friends and family around the world.
We all know where the missing link is, it's up to the Russian people to repair and reconnect it and what it stands for!