Former Russian professional soccer player Alexey Smertin has said Russia will welcome all World Cup fans this summer, including those people who are LGBTQ.
In fact, Smertin told the BBC that any news that has stirred concerns of racism or homophobia in Russia are simply “propaganda.”
He said everyone who goes to Russia will have their mind changed about the country.
“Of course there are a minority who are quite aggressive against [homosexuality] but if you are talking about showing feelings, if you are talking about rainbow flags, it won’t be prohibited in Russia during World Cup or afterwards,” Smertin told the BBC.
”It definitely won’t be stressful and we let everyone feel comfortable and safe in our country.”
The “stress” comes from many places, including Russia’s ban on what it calls gay “propaganda” that “promotes” homosexuality to children. Virtually anything can, ultimately, be deemed propaganda for children. For example, if you wave a rainbow flag on the street and a kid sees it... propaganda.
Russian authorities routinely arrest LGBTQ activists and make it difficult if not impossible to host Pride celebrations in the country. News of gangs targeting, torturing and killing gay people abounds.
Will Russia be on its best behavior during the World Cup? Probably. Will rainbow flags really be allowed inside Russian stadiums, and will the people waving them really not suffer any negative consequences? I wouldn’t bet on it.