Russian pole vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva — given a prominent role in the Sochi Winter Games next year — defended Russia’s anti-LGBT propaganda law Thursday, adding that she thought it was disrespectful for athletes from other countries to voice their opposition to the law.
Isinbayeva won her third world title on Tuesday at the IAAF World Championships, taking place in Moscow, and spoke out Thursday in defense of the new law that has led to an outcry regarding the nation’s scheduled hosting of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
“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 told the Associated Press. “We just live with boys with woman, woman with boys. … It comes from history. We never had any problems, these problems in Russia, and we don’t want to have any in the future.”
Isinbayeva is slated to serve as the honorary “mayor” of one of the Olympic Villages at the Sochi Games.
The Sochi organizing committee backed up Isinbayeva, with spokeswoman Svetlana Bobrova saying, according to the AP, that the body had no reason to comment on Isinbayeva’s statements.
“We like her and she is the mayor of the Olympic village,” Bobrova told the AP.
The AP also reports that she is an ambassador for the Youth Olympics, which are slated to take place in Nanjing, China, from Aug. 16–28, 2014.
Of athletes — including Sweden’s Emma Green Tregaro — who have criticized the law while in Russia, Isinbayeva said, “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 told reporters. “We have our home and everyone has to respect (it). When we arrive to different countries, we try to follow their rules.”
The International Association of Athletics Federations, the governing body for track and field, defended both nondiscrimination aims and Isinbayeva’s comments.
“The IAAF constitution underlines our commitment to principle of nondiscrimination in terms of religious, political or sexual orientation,” IAAF spokesman Nick Davies told The Associated Press. “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.”
For his part, American Nick Symmonds told BBC Radio 5 Live, “It blows my mind that a young, so well-educated woman can be so behind with the times. Guess what Yelena, a large portion of your citizenship are normal, standard homosexuals.”