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Russia: LGBT Open Games face last-minute venue cancellations

Organizers allege government interference

Anastasia Smirnova, the coordinator of a coalition of Russia LGBT advocacy groups, says a number of venues have cancelled their agreements with the organizers of the Open Games “under various pretexts.” Credit: civilrightsdefenders.org

Organizers of the Russian Open Games, a sporting event for LGBT people and their allies, say at least four Moscow venues and the Hilton Hotel have pulled out of their contracts as the games are about to start, OutSports reports.

According to the report, the Russian LGBT Sports Federation alleges that government pressure on the venues is to blame for the 11th-hour cancellations. The Open Games, which are set to run from Feb 26 to March 2, have attracted about 300 registered participants from Russia and abroad.

“As we expected, things started to happen — but on a greater scale than one could imagine. Throughout the past couple of hours, several venues cancelled their agreements with the organizers of the Open Games under various pretexts. In some of these cases, the organizers were informed about ‘calls from the administration’ that venue management received,” Anastasia Smirnova, coordinator of a coalition of Russian LGBT advocacy groups, says in an emailed statement.

Smirnova also noted that the Hilton Hotel, which had agreed to host a roundtable discussion, had also withdrawn its support.  

Games organizers have initiated a change.org petition, calling on International Paralympic Committee president Sir Philip Craven not to attend the Paralympic Games in Sochi, which are scheduled to start March 7, if the Open Games aren’t allowed to proceed.