Human rights issues shadow Sochi Olympics

Russian police officers detain two gay rights activists holding a poster reading "Homophobia is Russia's Disgrace" during a protest outside the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games organizing committee office, in downtown Moscow, Russia, on Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013. Several Russian gay rights activists held a small protest in front of the Olympics organizing committee, where they were detained by police. The protesters have come to express their opposition to Russia's new anti-gay laws which they consider to violate the human rights of the gay community. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

SOCHI, Russia (WOOD) — Human rights continue to be an important issue at the Olympics — but human rights and Russia haven’t always mixed.

How Russia treats its people has been a core issue heading into the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi. And there’s a lot at stake for Russia’s image. Some have called on Russia to put and keep human rights at the forefront — something it hasn’t always, historically, been willing to do.

This year’s games in Russia have served as a catalyst to shed light on human rights abuses there, including the recent adoption of laws discriminating against the LGBT community.

The latest in a series of protests regarding those laws was held last week. Amnesty International has put forth a petition asking President Vladimir Putin to get rid of them.

“What we like to see is the Russian government having a relationship with civil society — a conversation, a discussion. But what we see is a penalization of those organizations,” Kate Allen of Amnesty International said.

Demonstrations have not been allowed in the Olympic park itself. But history that has shown the Olympics are not immune to political turmoil.

Russia’s crackdown on social issues has led to an international backlash and a clear stance from some high profile American athletes like American alpine skier Bode Miller.

“If you cant get past that kind of stuff, I don’t know what kind of person you are,” Miller said.

All part of the outcry is the hope that the Olympics help Russia embody a true celebration of the human mind, body and spirit.

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