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Pride House: Olympic athletes can hold hands to show support of LGBT people

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While it will be hard for athletes to hold rainbow flags, they can hold one another's hand in solidarity with the LGBT community

Doug Pensinger

As the calls for an Olympic boycott die down, LGBT activists are focusing now on what to do in Sochi at the Winter Olympic Games to make a statement against the new Russian anti-gay law. US sprinter Nick Symmonds became the test case when he publicly dedicated his 800m silver medal to his LGBT friends.

Pride House International, which has been told it cannot host a Pride House in Sochi, has been looking for ways to make a statement during the Winter Olympics. Their first idea is a fantastic one: Encourage the athletes to hold hands with other athletes of the same sex.

"There are extreme restrictions on the uniforms and other items worn by athletes at any Olympic Games. Flags, badges, or pins are not allowed without IOC approval, a near-impossibility, and wearing something as seemingly innocuous as pink socks or shoelaces is very difficult for athletes to do, and complex to organize for other participants and spectators," said the Federation of Gay Games' Les Johnson, who is part of the Pride House Coalition. "But everyone can hold hands with their neighbor. Indeed, raising your rivals' hands in camaraderie is an image we see on every podium at every sporting event."

Those restrictions revolve around several components of the Olympic Charter, including Rule 50, which lay out who controls Olympic uniforms and restricts advertising, political statements and "propaganda."

Earlier this week, Gay Star News reported that the IOC would consider it "propaganda" if two people of the same sex held hands. That's crazy. When I was in the Maldives a few years ago, men were holding hands everywhere not because they were gay, but because it was a cultural norm. Many women hold hands here in the United States. Now that is suddenly an actionable offense by the IOC?

Holding hands is a part of sport, whether it's in solidarity with teammates or raising the hand of a victor. It's a great idea from Pride House, and it's the first one I've seen that could really take hold.