The Olympic Torch Continues Its Journey Despite Technical Difficulties

Russia continues to face scrutiny even as Olympic torch is lit.

In Moscow, Russia's President Vladimir Putin holds a torch during a ceremony on Oct. 6, 2013, to mark the start of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic torch relay across Russia.
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Irony stole the show Sunday when the Olympic torch went out momentarily, during its ceremonial first-day trek through the Kremlin. In some way the extinguished flame doubled as a metaphor for the various controversies surrounding the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics that have been threatening to stifle Russia's moment on the world stage.

The flame was extinguished just as Shavarsh Karapetyan, a Russian world swimming champion, was running through the gates of the Kremlin. Thanks to a fast thinking security guard, who used a cigarette lighter to revive the flame, the torch was back on track to complete its parade through the streets of Moscow.

[READ: Russia’s Anti-Gay Laws Become A Part of the Olympic Narrative]

Before the torch was sent out to complete its scheduled 123-day trip, covering 40,000 miles of Russian soil and the International Space Station, Russian President Vladimir Putin lit the cauldron with the Olympic flame.

Putin told audience members attending the ceremony that the tournament would give Russia the opportunity to show the rest of the world its greatness.

Putin also indirectly addressed the concerns about the controversial anti-gay laws that were recently established in Russia, by saying the Olympic Games would show Russia's "respect for equality and diversity- ideals that are so intertwined with the ideals of the Olympic movement itself," BBC reported.

"The Olympic flame - the symbol of the planet's main sports event, the symbol of peace and friendship - has arrived in Russia," Putin said.

[MORE: Don’t Boycott the Sochi Olympics Over Russia Anti-Gay Law: Fly the Rainbow Flag]

But between gay rights groups and human rights activists, Russia is facing less then friendly reactions to its hosting the world's most prominent sporting event. Backlash started early this summer when the Russia government passed legislation that banned the dissemination of "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations," CBS news reports.

Some equal rights groups have even suggested countries boycott the Olympic Games. Actors like Rupert Everett and Ian McKellen have joined this movement and promised to join the boycott according to the Huffington Post.

But others say that boycotting the Olympics won't change things. Canadian Journalist, Joe Schlesinger wrote an op-ed for CBS about how boycotting the Olympic Games would hurt the people of Russia. Schlesinger wrote "the biggest losers could be Russia's gays. If there is to be a boycott of Sochi, they could well be scapegoated as the unpatriotic cause of it."

 

Instead he proposed that if straight and gay athletes alike "unfurled rainbow flags from the winners' podium it would be a strong message to the world – and above all to the Russians — that in the 21st century the diversity of sexual orientation is a basic human right."

But many athletes see the Olympics to be something much more simple then a political platform. Many view the Olympics to be a chance to compete against challenging opponents.

"The Olympics are not a political statement, they are a place to let the world shine in peace and let them marvel at their youthful talents," Johnny Weir, a U.S. figure skater wrote in an Op-Ed for the Falls Church (Va.) News-Press. Weir said that as much he respected the LGBT community he also hoped that they would remember what the Olympics was truly about; "a chance to dazzle the world."

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