Russian television coverage of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo has proven decidedly anti-LGBTQ+, with hosts and guests using homophobic and transphobic words and actions to disparage out Olympians as "perverts" and "abominations." According to a report from the BBC, one host even donned a wig to mock trans athletes, like Team New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard.
During a July 26 broadcast, Rossiya 1 (the Russian equivalent of 60 Minutes) featured Alexei Zhuravlyov, a Russian parliament member, the deputy of the State Duma, and the chairman of the nationalistic Rodina political party. The right-wing politician reportedly said he was "disgusted" by trans and gay people in general, and singled out Hubbard for his hateful rhetoric.
"We stand opposed to all this smut and perversion, strongly opposed," Zhuravlyov said while pointing at a studio screen showing Hubbard, shouting and adding, "We stand against this abomination!"
"I do not think transgender people have any prospects in Russia, because they love men, while Russian men love women," Spiridon Kilinkarov, a former member of the Ukrainian parliament, was quoted as saying by the BBC.
The programming wasn’t much better on Russia's Channel One, where Time Will Tell host Anatoly Kuzichev donned a wig on the July 26 show to mock Hubbard (although he ended up looking more like Pippi Longstocking than an Olympic athlete).
Kuzichev also called transgender folks "psychopaths" in need of treatment by a psychiatrist.
On the July 20 edition of the same show, Russian parliament member Pyotr Tolstoy of the United Russia Party argued the new Olympic motto "Faster, Higher, Stronger – Together" was part of a Western conspiracy to "implant their agenda of equal rights, additional rights for LGBT, transgender people and other perverts into the Olympic movement."
Russia as a country was banned from this year's Summer Olympics in Tokyo after it was found to have engaged in mass doping of athletes. Athletes from Russia are still competing at the Olympics this summer, but as members of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC). The 330 Russian athletes competing currently in Tokyo marched without a flag or anthem.
Ruled by President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB agent, Russia recently enacted a series of measures designed to marginalize and oppress the LGBTQ+ community by banning marriage equality and transgender adoptions. The measures were passed with the overwhelming support of 77 percent of voters last year.
Russian television stations aired a jarring ad in support of the measures last year, with the commercial showing a gay couple adopting a young boy from an orphanage. One of the men, wearing makeup and clothing meant to look feminine, gave the boy a dress while the boy and a worker from the orphanage appear disgusted. YouTube pulled video of the ad, but it can still be seen here. (Viewer discretion is strongly advised.)
Animosity towards the LGBTQ+ community in Russia is so high, one printer refused to print materials depicting Korean boyband BTS, saying they had enough "normal" clients and did not want to turn children into "perverts." The printer also said the group was "too overtly gay" in turning down the printing request from a local fan club.
The International Olympic Committee issued a statement to the BBC regarding the hateful television coverage in Russia, saying, "We have been in contact with our contractual broadcasting partner in Russia in order to get clarity on the situation and to underline the Fundamental Principles of the Olympic Charter and we are following up accordingly."
The statement also directly responded to anti-LGBTQ+ abuse on Russian television by reiterating their mission of diversity and inclusivity.
"We welcome that Tokyo 2020 has embedded diversity and inclusion in the Olympic Games model."