Someone painted the crosswalks outside the Russian Embassy in Oslo in the colours of the rainbow during the night. The stunt is believed to be part of international protests against Russia’s recent legal crackdown on promotion of homosexuality.
Protests also are rising against the longtime Norwegian member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Gerhard Heiberg, over his own threatened crackdown on athletes carrying rainbow flags at the next Winter Olympics in Sochi in Russia.
The rainbow and rainbow flags have long been symbols of gay pride, but now they risk being seen as the “propaganda for non-traditional sexual relations” now banned in Russia for fear it will influence minors. The new law took effect on July 1st, while human rights organizations also are reporting increasing persecution of and violence against gays in Russia.
Heiberg has said that athletes won’t be allowed to carry rainbow flags in defiance of the Russian law, declaring that the athletes will be in Sochi to compete in their sports, not to make political statements during the Olympics.
“What rubbish,” exclaimed Swedish author and comedian Jonas Gardell, who’s become an activist for gay rights and recently received a prize from Swedish Crown Princess Victoria. Gardell said he’s furious with Heiberg and the IOC, arguing that the Olympics has long been an arena for political expression.
“The Olympics in Berlin in 1936 was a pure propaganda show for Adolph Hitler,” Gardell told Oslo-based newspaper Dagsavisen on Wednesday. “The whole world went smilingly along with that, while the Nazi regime persecuted Jews and homosexuals. Now we have a chance to make up for what we owe after the Olympics in 1936, by not going to Sochi like smiling idiots. This is (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s triumph. Our job must be to disturb him as much as possible.”
Anne Holt, a former Norwegian justice minister best known as a popular crime author, also criticized Heiberg for his remarks that reflect his reluctance to antagonize the Russians. “Don’t listen to Gerhard Heiberg,” Holt wrote in a recent column published in Dagsavisen. “Sew the unpolitical rainbow flag on all Norwegian uniforms.”
Someone clearly decided to adorn the streets just outside the large Russian Embassy complex in Oslo’s Skillebekk district on Wednesday. The white stripes of both crosswalks at the corner where the embassy is located suddenly had turned purple, pink, blue, green and yellow.
Embassy officials seemed to take it in stride, but didn’t see much need to comment. “We have registered (the colourfully painted crosswalks),” press secretary Petr Svirin told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “This is done on Norwegian territory by Norwegian citizens. They can do what they like, and if the Norwegian police think this is okay, it’s okay for us, too.”
City officials later said they’d remove the paint within 24 hours, in line with their efforts to quickly remove tagging. “We view this as defacement of a public installation,” Olav Bratteberg of the city agency in charge, Bymiljøetaten, told NRK.no.
Svirin of the embassy claimed no one could conclude that the painted sidewalks were necessarily a protest against Russia. “It may have to do with the new law, but it’s difficult to guess,” he told NRK. “Who knows?” He noted that the British Embassy and properties tied to the French Embassy are also adjacent to the crosswalks.