The spandex-clad lugers are lunging with maybe a little more tenderness than you’d expect as they prepare to push off.
“The Games have always been a little gay,” the tagline reads. “Let’s fight to keep them that way.”
It’s meant as a cheeky reminder that, for all the Olympic pomp and circumstance, host country Russia’s treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people remains a major concern over the course of this year’s Winter Olympic Games, which officially commence in less than 24 hours.
The Toronto-based Canadian Institute for Diversity and Inclusion works to create “inclusive work environments … focused on the broad spectrum of diversity,” CEO Michael Bach said.
He told Global News the organization has been keeping a close eye on Russia in the lead-up to the Games, since the government passed its law banning gay “propaganda” in June.
The law prohibits the promotion of “non-traditional” relationships.
“We are focused on the workplace and the Olympics is the workplace of the athlete,” Back said.
While the human rights situation for LGBT individuals in Russia is a serious issue – one that led UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to condemn violent discriminatory attacks – the institute decided to to take a “tongue-in-cheek” approach to its campaign.
A 30-second video posted online Tuesday had been watched more than 200,000 times by Thursday morning.
“We like to focus on humour, yet at the same time really send a strong message about the need for inclusive behaviours in something like the Olympic Games,” Bach said.
He said the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
Bach explained the goal of the project is to raise awareness of the mistreatment of LGBT people around the world.
“I think it’s important that people realize that outside of Russia there are 70-plus countries where being LGBT is illegal, punishable from anywhere from a couple of years in jail to a death sentence.”
He’s not placing blame on the International Olympic Committee or any of the Olympic sponsors, and he said CIDI doesn’t support any sort of boycott of the event.
But he hopes discussion and reaction to the situation in Russia will make the IOC take LGBT rights records into consideration when choosing future host countries.
“The Games are important. … But we need to ensure we also focus on our rights, our human rights.”
With files form Anna Mehler Paperny