Why do the Sochi Olympics have rainbow uniforms, and other Russian mysteries

January 17

In a visit to Sochi, Russia’s president apparently tries to reassure visitors alarmed by law limiting gay rights. (RIA-Novosti/AP)

Over the last few days, Russia has been trying to explain its position on gay rights and assure the world that the Winter Olympics, which begin Feb. 7, will be safe and fun for all. Kathy Lally, The Washington Post’s Moscow bureau chief, explains some of the answers President Vladimir Putin and others have previously offered to common questions.

Q. Will gay people be safe at the Sochi Olympics?

A. “One can feel calm and at ease, just leave kids alone please,” Putin told a group of Olympics volunteers Friday.

Q. Leave the kids alone?

A. Last summer Russia passed a law prohibiting the “propaganda of non-traditional sexual practices” among minors. The law has been used to ban gay-rights parades, because children might see them. Teachers are afraid to discuss sexual minorities in schools. And critics say the law assumes that children can be taught to become gay, a long-discredited idea.

Q. Let’s ask this again, “Leave the kids alone?”

A. In explaining his answer, Putin said that Russia had no law against homosexuality (that was dropped in 1993), but he repeatedly said the country would not tolerate pedophilia or propaganda among minors, implying that gay men and women would disproportionately be likely to be involved in such behavior.

Q. If there’s a ban on "homosexual propaganda" why do the Olympics volunteer uniforms have rainbow colors?

A. “We have no ban on the nontraditional forms of sexual intercourse among people,” Putin told volunteers. “We have the ban on the propaganda of homosexuality and pedophilia.” And, he said, he didn’t design the uniform.

Q. How does Russia regard world views on gay rights?

A. Morally bankrupt. The Russian Foreign Ministry has published a review of human rights in Europe, accusing European countries of misguidedly promoting gay rights. It says some European countries have tried to force other nations to accept the idea that homosexuality and same-sex marriages are normal and should be supported by governments, which Russia rejects.

Q. Will President Obama go to the Games?

A. No, he is sending a delegation that includes Billie Jean King, a well-known gay athlete. Enough said.

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