In a testament to the determination of Russia’s LGBT community, the country’s first gay sporting festival, the Open Games, kicked off in Moscow on Wednesday – despite last-minute venue cancellations and even a bomb threat.
Hosted by the Russian LGBT-Sport Federation, the Games aim to promote healthy lifestyles, physical activity and sports among the LGBT community and its supporters.
According to ABC News, more than 200 people from 11 countries and 20 Russian regions will compete in the sporting events; including badminton, basketball, futsal, skiing, swimming, table tennis, tennis and volleyball.
On Tuesday, a day before its launch, the Games were put at risk after four sporting venues and the Hilton Leningradskaya Hotel in Moscow cancelled their agreements with the organisers, apparently under pressure from the authorities to do so.
The organisers sourced alternative venues, but on Wednesday night the gay club hosting the opening ceremony received an anonymous bomb threat, forcing organisers to hold their planned press conference in the parking lot.
“Yes, there were problems,” said the organisers on the Games’ website. “It was easy to predict many of them and… it wasn’t easy to get over them. Nevertheless, with all our solidarity, devotion to our common goal and friendship we faced the challenges and successfully left all the difficulties behind us opening the first Russian Open LGBT-Games!”
The event has been backed by gay American Olympic diving veteran and honorary guest Greg Louganis as well as American actress Julianne Moore, who posted a video message expressing her support.
On Wednesday, LGBTI activists from Spectrum Human Rights, Larry Poltavtsev and Viacheslav Revin, visited the Hilton Worldwide headquarters in the American town of McLean, Virginia to express their concern at its Moscow hotel’s refusal to host a planned LGBT human rights panel discussion as part of Games.
Poltavtsev told Queerussia: “We were surprised… knowing that traditionally Hilton Worldwide is very supportive to the LGBT community. That’s why we came to talk to their leadership in McLean, VA and ask them to clarify their position.”
He said that they met with Aaron Radelet, Vice President of Global Corporate Communication, who claimed that he was not aware of the hotel’s refusal of service but promised to investigate the matter.
The Open Games will run until the 2nd of March.