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Coke rapped for banning word gay from Winter Olympics ad campaign

Coca-Cola’s social media campaign for the Winter Olympics in Russian city of Sochi has been criticised for being biased against gay people.
By HT Correspondent | Agencies, London
UPDATED ON JAN 27, 2014 10:01 PM IST

Coca-Cola’s social media campaign for the Winter Olympics in Russian city of Sochi has been criticised for being biased against gay people.

On entering the word gay, the site responds with a message saying, "Oops. Let's pretend you didn't just type that", but using the word "straight" is allowed, media reports said.

The campaign allows users to type in their name or a message and see it printed on a virtual can, which they can then share with friends and followers on social networks.

Recently, Coke was censured as Olympic officials wearing the company’s sponsorship logo had arrested a gay rights advocate in Russia.

Sochi mayor Anatoly Pakhomov has reportedly claimed that there were no gays in the city.

The mayor, however, said that gays were welcome to visit during the games.

Sochi's preparations have been clouded by the Western uproar against a Russian law enacted last year that prohibits gay "propaganda" among minors.

Critics and gay activists say the law discriminates against homosexuals and could be used against anyone openly supporting gay rights at the games.

Putin has insisted there will be no discrimination of any kind against any athletes or spectators in Sochi, yet his recent comments linking homosexuality and pedophilia have only inflamed the issue.

The IOC, meanwhile, has reminded athletes to comply with "Rule 50" of the Olympic Charter, which forbids protests or political gestures at Olympic venues.

President Barack Obama has seized on the issue by sending a U.S. delegation to Sochi that includes three openly gay members - tennis great Billie Jean King, figure skater Brian Boitano and ice hockey player Caitlin Cahow.

Seven years ago, Vladimir Putin traveled all the way to Guatemala to woo Olympic leaders with his grandiose vision: hosting the games in Sochi, Russia's little-known Black Sea summer resort.

Putin's personal pitch - delivered partly in English and French - did the trick as Sochi beat out bids from South Korea and Austria for the right to stage the 2014 Games on the so-called "Russian Riviera."

It was a risky choice then and it shapes up as even riskier now.

With the opening ceremony less than two weeks away, Putin's prestige and his country's reputation are at stake - riding on a $51 billion mega-project meant to showcase a modern Russia but overshadowed by a barrage of concerns over terrorism, gay rights, human rights, corruption, waste and overspending.

About 3,000 athletes from more than 80 countries will be competing in 98 medal events. Twelve new events are on the program, with women's ski jumping making its debut after being rejected for inclusion at the 2010 Vancouver Games.

Hoping to show off a resurgent Russia that emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, organizers have built virtually all Olympic facilities from scratch to turn a decaying, Stalinist-era resort into what they hope will be a year-round tourist destination and winter sports mecca for the region.

Russia is mounting what is believed to be the biggest security operation ever for an Olympics, deploying more than 50,000 police and soldiers to protect the games. The cordon includes naval warships, anti-aircraft batteries and drone aircraft. Two U.S. warships will be in the Black Sea to help if needed.

"We will try to make sure that the security measures taken aren't too intrusive or visible and that they won't put pressure on the athletes, guests and journalists," Putin said.

Sochi features one of the most compact layouts in Olympic history, with all indoor arenas located close to each other in an Olympic Park along the coast. The cluster of snow venues are about 45 minutes away in the Krasnaya Polyana mountains.

"The venues will be perhaps the most spectacular, the best ever," said senior Norwegian IOC member Gerhard Heiberg, who organized the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer.

The project has come at a monumental cost: the $51 billion price tag, which includes construction of news road, tunnels, rail lines and other long-term infrastructure investments, is a record for any Winter or Summer Games. Billions of dollars have disappeared in kickbacks, embezzlement or mismanagement, critics claim.

"What's not good is all the money that's been spent," said Heiberg, head of the IOC marketing commission. "This could influence very badly cities thinking about bidding for the games."

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