Russian President Vladimir Putin will
oversee a ceremony on Red Square on Sunday welcoming the Olympic
flame to Russia and the start of the Sochi 2014 Olympic torch relay.
The Olympic flame was handed to Russian
organizers of the Sochi Winter Olympics on Saturday in Athens,
The flame was lit last Sunday in a
ceremony held at Ancient Olympia's Temple of Hera in southern Greece.
After a 7-day run covering 33 Greek
towns and cities, the flame was placed in a lantern during Saturday's
ceremony and handed over to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry
The Olympic torch will embark on a
40,000 mile journey around Russia on Monday. Olympian Anastasia
Davydova, who has won five gold Olympic medals in synchronized
swimming, will serve as the first torchbearer.
Over the summer, Putin signed laws
which prohibit gay and lesbian couples from adopting Russian-born
children and the public promotion of gay rights where minors might be
present, effectively shutting down public demonstrations of support.
Russia's “gay propaganda” law has provoked worldwide protests and
calls for a boycott of the Sochi Games.
Brian Brown testified in favor of Russia's ban on gay adoption.)
Last month, Putin reacted to the
protests, many of which were directed at him, arguing that the law is
“no infringement on the rights of sexual minorities.”
He added that “gay marriages don't
produce children” and that he cannot be homophobic because he has
awarded gays “state prizes or decorations for their achievements in
The AP reported that two activists
silently raised a rainbow flag in protest during Saturday's ceremony
in Greece. A protest sponsored by the gay rights group Colour
Youth at the Acropolis Museum, where the flame stayed overnight,
attracted a few dozen protesters who held rainbow flags and banners
which read “Homophobia is not in the Olympic Spirit” and “Love
is not Propaganda.”
“The Olympics should have taken a
stand against this law in Russia because the Olympic ideals are for
supporting human rights and diversity and that's not what's happening
in Russia,” protester Zak
Kostopoulos told the AP.
Olympic Committee won't stop athletes from supporting gay rights.)