The outcry over Russia's laws against supposed gay "propaganda" has been one of the defining stories in the run-up to the Winter Olympics in Sochi, with various world leaders, athletes, and sponsors speaking out against restrictions that effectively make any public support for LGBT rights a crime. While these issues aren't going away any time soon, they have become a little less dominant with the actual competition in Sochi set to kick off officially at Friday's opening ceremony. The sports are beginning to take center stage.
[ Related: How Russia enforces its ban on gay 'propaganda.' ]
Of course, that doesn't mean that the rest of the world is going to shy away from the controversy. On Thursday night, one of the internet's biggest websites took aim at Russia's anti-LGBT laws in a way that's sure to be noticed by Olympics viewers everywhere. In the newest version of its ever-changing homepage doodle, Google has superimposed drawings of six olympic athletes — from downhill skiing, ice hockey, curling, bobsled, figure skating, and snowboarding — onto the colors of the rainbow flag. Underneath that image, there's a quote from the Olympic charter that serves as a sharp rebuke to any form of discrimination:
"The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play."
Additionally, the tops of Google search results pages include the company name on top of the flag's colors. Take a look below:
While Google did not make a direct connection between the homepage doodle and Russia's laws, the timing and reference to the Olympic charter do not require much interpretation to understand the point. The Associated Press has more on the story:
The company declined to comment on the new Google Doodle that appeared on its home pages worldwide, saying it wanted the illustration to speak for itself. But the logo clearly was meant as a show of support for gay rights and a rebuke of the law that bans pro-gay "propaganda" that could be accessible to minors: below the updated logo appears a two-sentence section of the Olympic charter that reads, in part, "The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind."
"Google has made a clear and unequivocal statement that Russia's anti-LGBT discrimination is indefensible," said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin, whose Washington-based group has been lobbying American corporations, especially those sponsoring the Games in Sochi, to condemn the law signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in July. "Now it's time for each and every remaining Olympic sponsor to follow their lead. The clock is ticking, and the world is watching." [...]
Google typically updates its themed daily Doodles at midnight Eastern time, but the Olympics-gay pride version made its debut in the late afternoon. While Google is not as popular in Russia as it is in the U.S., the timing meant it would be seen in Russia on Friday, when the Games' opening ceremonies will be held. The local time in Sochi is 12 hours ahead of California, where Google is headquartered.
Google and its founders have been outspoken supporters of gay rights since 2008, when the company got involved in the campaign to defeat a gay marriage ban on the California ballot. In 2012 it launched a global workplace safety campaign, called "Legalise Love," that it described as a call to decriminalize homosexuality and eliminate homophobia around the world. The company also recognizes gay pride season each year by customizing search boxes to turn rainbow-colored when terms like "gay" and "gay pride" are entered.
Google is not an official sponsor of the Olympics, but their message does come on the heels of similarly positioned statements from sponsors AT&T and Chobani and a speech from United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon.
[ Related: UN chief denounces attacks on LGBT people. ]
The ramifications of the Google homepage modifications are unclear, but they are sure to bring more attention to some of the least popular aspects of an event meant to present Russia in the strongest manner possible. Sports will surely dominate headlines from Sochi, but the impressions of non-Russians could continue to focus on other stories.
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