New Zealand to appoint special diplomat to help with problems over anti-gay law at Sochi 2014

Sunday, 20 October 2013
By Duncan Mackay

New Zealand's short track speed skater Blake Skjellerup is one of the few openly gay competitors set to compete at Sochi 2014October 20 - New Zealand's Government is to appoint a diplomat dedicated to ensuring that its citizens are not targeted by Russia's controversial anti-gay laws during next year's Winter Olympics and Parlaympics in Sochi next year. 

The decision follows a group of New Zealand opposition MPs, led by Labour's Louisa Wall, approaching the country's Foreign Minister Murray McCully asking for his help in protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people at the Games.

Wall, a former New Zealand international at netball and rugby union, who was a member of the country's team that won the women's World Cup in 1998, said McCully had promised that a consular official at the Embassy in Moscow would be appointed to help anyone who needed help over the matter. 

"Mr McCully also wrote to us saying that the New Zealand Embassy in Moscow has raised with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs our concerns regarding the recent law changes," said Wall, who is a lesbian who spearheaded the campaign to make same-sex marriage legal in New Zealand.

"The Embassy is continuing to monitor the human rights situation in Russia and is working closely with like-minded missions on this."

New Zealand MP Louisa Wall has led efforts to ensure that the country's athletes will be looked after if they fall foul of Russia'a anti-gay law at Sochi 2014New Zealand MP Louisa Wall has led efforts to ensure that the country's athletes will be looked after if they fall foul of Russia'a anti-gay law at Sochi 2014

One of the few openly gay competitors going to Sochi is New Zealand speed skater Blake Skjellerup.

He has previously said he plans to wear a rainbow gay pride pin while competing, even if there is a threat of arrest for doing so.

"The right of all our New Zealand team members to fully express themselves within the context of the Olympics, an international institution of such esteem, is fundamental to our full participation as equal citizens in the world," said Wall.

"This includes being proud to be who you are and unless one is fully able to express all they are, then this constraint can compromise the Olympic motto Citius, Altius, Fortius, which is Latin for 'Faster, Higher, Stronger'."

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