Officials at the International Olympic Committee (IOC) promised on Friday that visitors and competitors in the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia would not be affected by the country's anti-LGBT "propaganda" law, amid growing protests against both American participation and the event's broadcaster.
"The IOC has received assurances from the highest level of government in Russia that the legislation will not affect those attending or taking part in the Games," the committee said in a statement to USA Today on Friday. "This legislation has just been passed into law and it remains to be seen whether and how it will be implemented, particularly as regards the Games in Sochi."
But Think Progress reported that the law, which purportedly targets "homosexual propaganda," has already been accompanied by both an upswing in violence against the LGBT community and an increase in homophobia among the Russian populace. Human rights advocates have also highlighted the kidnapping and torturing of young LGBT people by a neo-Nazi group.
The Russian law has spurred an online petition calling for the U.S. to boycott the Sochi Games in response, which had garnered more than 99,000 signatures as of Saturday night. If the petition reaches 100,000 signatures by Aug. 23, the White House is obliged to respond. A protest has also been planned for the Russian consulate in San Francisco, California on Aug. 3.
Members of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) also criticized NBCUniversal, which will broadcast the competition, following a statement by a company spokesperson to Buzzfeed on Friday asserting its support for "equal rights and the fair treatment for all people."
"We're in agreement," HRC spokesperson Fred Sainz told Buzzfeed. "Unfortunately platitudes won't do away with these heinous laws that are an abomination to LGBT people. NBC has an obligation to provide fair and balanced coverage of Russia. It would not be an accurate depiction of the environment for the Olympics to merely be a commercial for the Russian Federation. History demands that NBC depict the truth."
[Image via Agence France-Presse]