On May 7-9th 2016 we held the 2nd LGBT festival “Siberian Athens” in Tomsk. It took place there despite numerous of cancelations for renting sport venues and general pressure made on organizing committee through venue owners and officials.
Thanks to united efforts of the organizing committee of the Tomsk Branch of the Russian LGBT Sport Federation and local branch of the Russian LGBT Network, 40 participants from Tomsk, Novosibirsk, Omsk and Kemerovo participated in the festival. A three days festival program consisted of tournaments in basketball, mini-football, volleyball, table tennis and bowling. Besides those sport events, there were also training, films, discussions and presentations of other branches of the Russian LGBT Sport Federation as well as of inva-group “Queer-Peace” which is dedicated to problems of disabled LGBTI-people, a sightseeing bus-tour and other entertainments.
The most difficult days of the festival were the first two days. Although earlier an agreement was reached with officials of the sports center "Energetik" (Tomsk) and payment for the hire of the sports venue for two days (May 7th and 8th) had also been made, the sport center officials cancelled the contract at the very last moment. They said to the organizing committee that «they had no right to hold competitions at the venue». At the same time a head of the sport center gave a comment to the press where it was said: «I have no information about competitions supposed to be held in «Energetik» by the Russian LGBT Sport Federation».
These tactics were repeated several times with other sport venues as well. Probably, the officials of sport venues experienced some pressure and as a result they banned this LGBT event and demanded deletion of any photos and video, any materials at all- Julia Girnvich, Director for Regional Affairs of the Russian LGBT Sport Federation, gave comments to the media on such an alarming situation. For instance, the News Agency TV2 threw the light upon the problem.
In such difficult circumstances, the organizing committee of the festival «Siberian Athens» gained experience of working in an extreme situation and did their best to provide the whole program, although the schedule was obviously changed. Thanks to their activity measures, the third day was carried out very well and there was no trouble. Moreover, the events of the first two days created a high level a high level of interest among festival participants in legal training. The training “Legal Aid in Cases of Xenophobia” had a great success and its participants expressed their wish to have more similar trainings. Another discovery of the festival was bowling. It was included into the program during the festival and was very popular.
To sum up results of the 2nd LGBT festival «Siberian Athens», the Russian LGBT Sport Federation exposes the growing pressure on LGBT community and their problems to enjoy their right to do sport in 2016. It is already a second case in less than six months where venues have disrupted LGBT sport events. Last time the Russian LGBT Sport Federation faced such a significant administrative pressure during the Russian Open Games (Moscow, 2014).
Translated by the Russian LGBT Sport Federation