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Russian Open Games plagued by series of disruptions

Smoke bomb cuts short basketball tournament

The Russian Open Games continue to be plagued by a series of disruptions, including the release of a smoke bomb that interrupted a basketball tournament. Credit:

The release of a smoke bomb at a facility hosting a basketball tournament is just the latest in a series of disruptions plaguing the Russia Open Games, an international sporting event for LGBT people and their allies.

The Moscow Times reported Feb 28 that games organizers alleged that the Federal Security Service first called the facility’s ownership to warn that games participants intended to run naked through the venue. Later, a man who claimed to be from the security service showed up at the facility ostensibly to inspect it. Anastasia Smirnova, coordinator of a coalition of Russian LGBT advocacy groups, says she then heard someone shouting that there was a fire, but she saw only smoke. 

As the games were about to get underway Feb 26, a number of hotels and venues that organizers had booked for the games pulled out of their agreements with the Russian LGBT Sports Federation, which began scrambling to find alternative lodgings and sport facilities.

To prevent harassment from anti-gay protesters, games organizers have been releasing information about events the night before they are scheduled to take place. Still, such precautions have not always worked.

The Times notes that in one instance, athletes arrived at a skating rink only to be told there were “technical” difficulties with the ice. In another case, a conference was cancelled because management turned off the electricity, while plumbing problems were cited by another venue as the reason for cancelling an event. A bomb threat also led to the cancellation of the games’ opening ceremony.

Organizers of the LGBT Side by Side Film Festival would be only too familiar with the challenges their Open Games counterparts are facing. In November, the festival faced a number of bomb threats, including one that disrupted its opening-night film and led to the evacuation of 200 attendees.