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'Open Games' Set After Olympics to Protest Antigay Law

<p>Organizers say more than 250 athletes from 11 countries are on board.</p>
A spectator wearing gloves with the Olympic rings poses for photos with a Russian competitor after a run in the women's snowboard parallel giant slalom qualifying at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. AP

SOCHI, Russia — More than 250 athletes from 11 countries have signed up for a five-day sports festival in Moscow right after the Olympics to protest an antigay Russian law, organizers said Wednesday.

The Russian Open Games are designed to show the world that “we are normal people,” said Konstantin Yablotsky, president of the Russian LGBT Sport Federation, a non-government group. “We are good people. We play sports. We win medals.”

The games will start next Wednesday, three days after the Sochi Olympics, and run for five days. Yablotsky said that organizers have informed Russia’s Ministry of Sport, which has declined to lend its support to the games.

Russia passed a law last year criminalizing the spread of gay “propaganda” to minors, and human rights groups say Russian gays are routinely intimidated and attacked.

Yablotsky, at a small press conference overlooking Olympic Park here, said he is not worried about backlash from the Russian government in part because most events will be held indoors and because all the participants will be adults.

Belle Brockhoff, an openly gay Olympic snowboarder from Australia, said she is hoping to go as a goodwill ambassador. The Open Games will show people that “it’s OK to be gay, it’s OK to be who you are and be open about your sexuality,” she said.

Olympic athletes have not used the games to speak out against the Russian law, but Brockhoff said she believes some will do so after the Olympics. The International Olympic Committee strongly discourages using the games as a platform.

“Every athlete knows that the Olympics is not a place for a political stand,” Brockhoff said. “It’s about the athletes and inspiring the world.”