While walking around Downtown LA, I noticed that there was an LGBT flag attached to the Sister Cities signpost near city hall. Upon closer observation, the flag was hanging from the St. Petersburg marker which pointed the way to the Russian city. If you’ve been paying attention to current global affairs, then you can see why this particular display is significant.
This year, Russia adopted a bill banning LGBT “propaganda”, causing uproar both within and beyond the nation’s borders. It’s not really news to anyone that attitudes towards the LGBT community in Russia have been rather hostile, with news about attacks on gay activists at pride events making headlines. A report conducted by the Pew Research Center showed that only 16% of people surveyed in Russia this year believe that homosexuality should be accepted by society. In 2007, that number was 20%.
Because the Russian city of Sochi will be hosting the 2014 WInter Olympics, various groups and individuals have been putting pressure on the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Olympic corporate sponsors, and national governments to take a stand against this discrimination. Some American political leaders such as President Barack Obama and Senator Barbara Boxer have already spoken up about their disappointment over the Russian anti-LGBT laws. Though companies such as McDonald’s and Coca-Cola have expressed their support for LGBT rights, they ultimately defer any decision-making about the political situation to the IOC.
What makes this so interesting to me is that it is a great example of how the three main pillars of global studies intersect due to a particular mega-event such as the Olympic games. Within culture and society, you have the basic issue of LGBT rights as human rights that are challenging traditional norms and customs in Russia; within governance and conflict, you have the laws which are under fire and the responses by politicians on both sides of the disagreement; and within markets, you have the large corporate sponsors trying to walk a fine line with showing that they support equality while still having economic goals in mind. These examples are pretty basic, but they aren’t mutually exclusive. They are all happening because of an inherently global event that requires participation from the international community.
I think it will be intriguing to see what other developments are made within the next six months leading up to the Olympics. Either way, there are bound to be even more issues in global studies that will come up and that, to me, is very exciting!