You certainly won’t see Russian pole vault legend Yelena Isinbayeva with fingernails painted the color of the rainbow to support the LGBT community. In fact, she openly speaks out about her disagreement with the act.
“If we allow to promote and do all this stuff on the street, we are very afraid about our nation because we consider ourselves like normal, standard people,” Isinbayeva said after she won her third world title. “We just live with boys with woman, woman with boys.”
At least two Swedish athletes painted their nails the color of the rainbow in disagreement with the Russian anti-gay laws.
“The first thing that happened when I came to Moscow and pulled my curtains aside was that I saw the rainbow and that felt a little ironic,” Emma Green Tregaro, who won the bronze medal at the 2005 world championship, said. “Then I had a suggestion from a friend on Instagram that maybe I could paint my nails in the colors of the rainbow and that felt like a simple, small thing that maybe could trigger some thoughts.”
Nick Davies, spokesman for the IAAF, the sport’s governing body, said both opinions are valid.
“The IAAF constitution underlines our commitment to principle of nondiscrimination in terms of religious, political or sexual orientation,” Davies said. “Allied to this is our belief in free expression as a basic human right, which means we must respect the opinions of both Green Tregaro and Isinbayeva.”
Isinbayeva thinks it’s wrong for Swedes to support the LGBT community in Russia.
“It’s unrespectful to our country. It’s unrespectful to our citizens because we are Russians. Maybe we are different from European people and other people from different lands,” Isinbayeva said. “We have our home and everyone has to respect [it]. When we arrive to different countries, we try to follow their rules.”
American middle-distance runner Nick Symmonds was surprised at Isinbayeva’s comments.
“Oh, my god. I can’t believe she said that. It’s bad,” Symmonds said. “For Yelena to come out and say we are normal, standard Russian citizens – I’m paraphrasing here – and we don’t stand for that. I want to say to Yelena, ‘You understand a very large portion of your citizens here are gay and lesbian people. They are standard people, too. They were created this way. For you to tell them that they’re not normal and standard, that’s what we’re taking an issue with.’ That’s why we have to continue to demonstrate and to speak out against the ignorance that she’s showing.”
Symmonds dedicated his silver medal to his gay and lesbian friends.
“While I was here I wanted to focus on athletics. I wanted to win a medal. That was my job,” Symmonds said. “Now that I’m done doing that job, if there’s something I can do, if this gives me a platform to voice my opinion and speak out about the atrocities that I’ve seen here, that’s what I’d like to do.”
Though Isinbayeva is vocal about agreeing with Russia’s anti-gay laws, she is also very popular and greatly respected in Russia. She is the “mayor” of one of the Olympic villages in Sochi and an ambassador for the Youth Olympics.
Though Russian laws don’t ban LGBT athletes from participating in the Olympics, they don’t allow the promotion of gay propaganda, including things like waving a rainbow flag which has caused lots of controversy with Russia being the home of the next Olympics.