The International Olympic Committee on Tuesday defended the ejection of an Italian transgender gay rights activist from the Sochi Games, saying the Olympic Park and venues were not the place for demonstrations.
Activist Vladimir Luxuria, a former Italian MP, was briefly held by Russian police on Sunday evening and was again escorted from the Olympic Park on Monday evening.
According to reports, Luxuria, dressed in rainbow colours of the gay rights movement, on the first occasion tried to brandish the slogan “It’s OK to be Gay” and on the second attempted to shout it at an ice hockey match.
She was on Sunday evening escorted out of the Olympic Park by Russian police but does not appear to have been formally arrested.
“What happened yesterday is a little bit unclear, I understand she was in the Park, walking around, taking to spectators,” said IOC spokesman Mark Adams.
“Some people were pro, some were against, some were very against,” he commented.
He said that Luxuria continued to demonstrate when the activist was at the ice hockey venue in the Olympic Park “and I believe she was escorted from there, peacefully, and not detained.”
But he added: “The Olympic Park, the Olympic venues are not for us the place for demonstrations, whether we are sympathetic or not.
“This (issue) has split opinions around the world so we would ask anyone to make their case somewhere else.”
The controversy comes after the furore that preceded the Games over Russia’s now notorious law passed last year that bans the promotion of “gay propaganda” to minors.
According to a statement on her website, Luxuria is now to leave Russia after having been declared “persona non grata” in the country. However the expulsion has not been confirmed by Russian officials.