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Updated: Fri, 22 Nov 2013 14:33:32 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Sochi: Russian activists ready gay-friendly games



Gay rights activists take part in an opposition protest march in Moscow, June 12, 2013. Thousands of protesters marched in Moscow on Wednesday, calling for Russian President Vladimir Putin's resignation and the release of activists facing long jail terms over violence at a rally on the eve of his inauguration to a third term last year. Banner read, "Equal rights". Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

Gay rights activists take part in an opposition protest march in Moscow, June 12, 2013. Thousands of protesters marched in Moscow on Wednesday, calling for Russian President Vladimir Putin's resignation and the release of activists facing long jail terms over violence at a rally on the eve of his inauguration to a third term last year. Banner read, "Equal rights". Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

The head of the Russian LGBT Sports Federation is in Toronto promoting the first gay sports tournament in Russia, which will be held after the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Organizers of the Open Games hope to bring attention to the struggles of the lesbians, gays, bisexuals and the transgendered. 

Questions remain about how Russian authorities will enforce the controversial anti-gay laws that came into effect earlier this year. Protests against those laws have turned violent at times.

Organizer and gay amateur figure skater Konstantin Yablotskiy predicts the days after the Winter Games will be dangerous for those in the LGBT community. 

"As it was after the Beijing Olympics in China in 2008 — when the Olympics was over there was no media attention and all human rights defenders were just crushed by the national government," Yablotskiy told CBC News. 

The Open Games will be held in Moscow, between the Winter Games, which run Feb. 7 to 23, and the Paralympics. 

Two leading Toronto gay organizations, PrideHouse Toronto and OutSport Toronto, have thrown their support behind the plans. 

Darlene Homonko of PrideHouse Toronto says Russia is hoping to keep any talk of LGBT issues away from the spotlight. 

"To have a successful Sochi Games probably means no political unrest and dissent," said Homonko.

Yablotskiy doesn't expect any open demonstrations during the Sochi Games, though he says there may be more subtle signs of protest. Activists are calling on athletes of the same sex to hold hands during awards ceremonies, for example, to show their support of the LGBT community. 

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