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Russians plan 'gay games' in Moscow after Sochi Olympics

Organizers have dubbed the post-Olympics event the 'Russian Open Games.'

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(ERIK MARTENSSON/AFP/Getty Images)

A Russian group is planning to hold a "gay games" in Moscow days after the Sochi Olympics and is calling on international athletes to come and support the event.

Viktor Romanov, the chairman of the board of the Russian LGBT (Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) Sport Federation, said the event — which will be for Russian amateur sportspeople — was set to open in February 2014 after the closing ceremony of the Sochi Olympics.

"We are starting on February 26 so that people who want to — sportspeople, officials, journalists — can travel from Sochi to Moscow to support us," Romanov told AFP in an interview late Monday.

"We will be grateful to any official or any famous figure who comes to support us."

The group plans to hold the Russian Open Games in Moscow from February 26 to March 2, 2014, three days after the Olympic Games end in Sochi.

Romanov insisted the group was not breaking a controversial law signed by President Vladimir Putin in June that bans the promotion of homosexuality to minors.

"The law does not cover us because we are not doing propaganda of homosexuality, but propaganda of sport and a healthy lifestyle," Romanov said.

"We aren't breaking the law."

Nevertheless, he called the games a response to the homophobic climate.

"We understand very well that with this difficult time that we are in, we can't stand aside."

The federation does not need to apply for permission from the authorities to hold sports events — unlike the organisers of gay pride protests.

"We will hire sports venues, they will be 'closed'... we will produce badges, special passes for all the participants," Romanov said.

He added that the organisers would inform the sports ministry, the Moscow city government and the police of all the events.

The group, which is officially registered as a non-commercial organisation, has held sports events for several hundred members over the last three years.

Romanov, a retired investigator, founded the group with Konstantin Yablotsky, a high-school teacher. They met at the 2010 Gay Games in Cologne.

One sportswoman who is expected to compete at Sochi, has supported the group, Romanov said.

"She came to an event, she recorded a video message of support."

But the Russian competitors "have been banned from openly supporting the LGBT community," he said.

"We can only rely on those who are brave and aren't afraid and don't depend on the government."

Putin promised Monday that athletes and fans at the Sochi Olympics would "feel comfortable.. regardless of their ethnicity, race or sexual orientation."

The first Gay Games were held in San Francisco in 1982.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131029/russians-plan-gay-games-moscow-after-sochi