79 Days To Go

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With less than 100 days to go until the start of the 2014 Winter Olympic games to be held in Sochi Russia, I wondered  how Russian officials and Olympic sponsors have been able to deal with all of the controversy and public relations disasters that have proceeded the Olympics and create a positive image for the Sochi games.  The most notable controversy surrounding the games has been Russia’s widely reported anti-gay legislation. In June President Vladimir Putin signed a law that banned all gay propaganda; then, in August, barred any type of protest in Sochi two months prior to the start of the Olympic games for fear that gay rights activists would used Sochi as a platform to protest the law. While this law outraged many LBGT activists around the word, The International Olympic Committee determined that the gay propaganda law did not violate the Olympic Charter’s anti-discrimination clause. The chairman of the International Olympic Committee Coordination Commission, Jean-Claude Kelly, stated “the IOC doesn’t have the right to discuss the laws that are in place in the country hosting the games, so unless the charter is violated we are fully satisfied”. The International Olympic Committee has also declined to take action when an anti-gay program on Russian state television featured the Olympic logo on the top right corner of the screen throughout the. It is also now a rule that journalists will not be able to use their smart phones or other devices to record any events in the Winter Olympics. Whether or not this is a means to amp up the importance of the traditional television media outlet, or because of a fear of any human rights violation being visually recorded at the Olympic games is unknown.

Many of the gay rights protests in Russia have resulted in mob violence and  brutality. This presents a huge conflict for large brand names like NBC, Coca-Cola and McDonalds who have been asked by gay rights activists and athletes to boycott the games to show their support of gay athletes who may be at risk during the games. Other LBGT activists have asked sponsors, like Coke, to take a different approach to demonstrate their support. It was suggested that as a sign of solidarity Coke could create a can with the rainbow flag; Coke has made no statement on how they will address this issue. These Olympic games have brought to the forefront the way in which major corporations will address gay rights issues.

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On the other hand, NBC, who broadcasts the Winter Olympics, has created an ad campaign that is hopeful and exciting, that to me says “remember what the games are really about: sports”. Many of the ads feature an inspiring victory or triumph by a United States athlete at a previous winter Olympic event. It is clear that NBC is putting all of their marketing efforts in to creating a more positive image for the winter games rather than a highly inflammatory, politically charged one. Personally, I do not believe corporate sponsors will be able to remain silent on these issues for long, especially if this becomes a safety concern for American athletes at the games. However, only time will tell if the Olympic games will lead to more controversy and violence. All the sponsors can do is hope for peaceful demonstrations and try to direct viewers attention back to the games themselves.

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