By Emily Goddard

sshhi mediumAugust 14 - Competitors at Sochi 2014 of the same gender are being urged to hold hands - irrespective of their sexual orientation - to send a strong message of protest against Russia's controversial anti-gay laws. 

In the face of Russia's contentious anti-gay law Pride House International, the coalition of organisations, which includes the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) sports groups, is urging "everyone present in Sochi" to follow their initiative  - potentially illegal under the new bill.

"Long after the 2014 Olympics, we in Russia will continue to live under this horrible law," Konstantin Yablotskiy from the Russian LGBT Sports Federation is part of Pride House International said.

"For a few weeks we have the opportunity to bring the attention of the world to the situation in Russia.

"The same-sex handholding initiative enables everyone to get involved with a simple yet iconic gesture.

"We know from gestures like Usain Bolt's lightning stance the impact of such images that are simple, replicable, and identifiable."

Same-sex handholding is common place at the OlympicsSame-sex handholding is commonplace at the Olympics

Same-sex handholding has an Olympic tradition with the organisation - A Day in Hand hosted a same-sex handholding relay through London as part of London 2012's Inspire cultural programme - Federation of Gay Games official Les Johnson said the gesture overcomes the "extreme restrictions" on messages at the Olympics.

"There are extreme restrictions on the uniforms and other items worn by athletes at any Olympic Games," he explained.

"Flags, badges, or pins are not allowed without IOC (International Olympic Committee) approval, a near-impossibility, and wearing something as seemingly innocuous as pink socks or shoelaces is very difficult for athletes to do, and complex to organise for other participants and spectators.

"But everyone can hold hands with their neighbour.

"Indeed, raising your rivals' hands in camaraderie is an image we see on every podium at every sporting event."

Pride House International does, however, "urge anyone wanting to participate in the campaign to exercise caution".

"Handholding should happen only in public view with as many witnesses as possible, media and otherwise," added a statement.

Demonstrators have taken to the streets in protest agains the new Russian anti-gay lawDemonstrators have taken to the streets in protest against the new Russian anti-gay law

Since it was signed by President Vladimir Putin in June, Russia's controversial anti-gay bill, which prohibits "the promotion of non-traditional sexual relations", has sparked global outrage, with numerous activist groups coming forward in protest with various demands from a change of venue to a complete boycott.

Russian Olympic Committee President Alexander Zhukov today insisted that boycotting the Olympics is a "totally pointless action" that would harm the sports.

"The Russian Government and the Olympic Committee have already given all explanations on this matter," he said.

"I think they are exhaustive."

IOC President Jacques Rogge has asked Russia to explain how the new law might affect next year's Games.

Football's world governing body, FIFA, has also now come forward to also ask the authorities "for clarification and more details" on the bill ahead of the 2018 World Cup in the country.

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