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Coca-Cola axed from gay awards short-list over Sochi sponsorship

Coca-Cola declines chance to comment after being pulled from awards. Gay advocates say they should condemn Russian homophobia
An Olympic official stops Pavel Levedev waving the rainbow flag for gay rights in Russia.

Gay awards bosses have chucked Coca-Cola off their shortlist after it refused to use its sponsorship of Sochi to speak out on LGBTI rights in Russia.

The Out in the City and G3 Magazine Awards had nominated Coca-Cola in its Brand of the Year category for what are dubbed ‘Britain’s gay Oscars’.

But the brand’s sponsorship of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, has sparked criticism.

Today awards organizers (27 January) pulled Coca-Cola’s nomination over ‘its unwillingness to express any explicit criticism or concern about the new homophobic legislation in Russia and the wave of homophobic violence there’.

In a statement issued to GSN, the awards chiefs added: ‘Despite repeated requests, the drinks giant has refused to take a stand against the persecution of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Russians.

‘It is proceeding as if everything is okay and normal in Russia; ignoring widespread international concern over Russia’s new law against LGBT visibility and the advocacy of LGBT equality.’

Sarah Garrett, managing director of Square Peg Media which runs the awards, said: ‘It is bitterly disappointing Coca-Cola has not listened to the collective voice of the global gay community who are horrified by the Putin governments anti-gay and repressive policies.

‘Brands like Coke should be making a stand against the demonization of gay people by withdrawing sponsorship for the Winter Olympics. Refusing to do so is a slap in the face to the international gay community.’

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell was among those who called for Coca-Cola to be dropped.

He said: ‘I would have expected Coke to make a simple statement such as: “Coca-Cola is gravely concerned about new Russian legislation that discriminates against the LGBT community. We deplore the homophobic violence that is taking place in Russia.” I don't understand why they feel unable to say this.

‘Hopefully, this will send a signal to Coke to be more careful and respectful when making future advertising and sponsorship decisions.’

International LGBTI advocate Omar Kuddus has also been battling Coca-Cola.

He told GSN: ‘Coke are supporting the most homophobic and dangerous Olympics ever and with their recent statement condoning the arrest of activist Pavel Lebedev, in Russia, they have proved their policies on LGBTs are not acceptable.

‘Lebedev was arrested for waving a rainbow flag during the Olympic torch relay and Coca-Cola defended the gay man’s arrest for publicly defending his human right.

‘Pavel was pounced on by a number security officers, including the official Olympic security personnel sporting the logos of the Olympic rings and Coke.

‘Coca-Cola need to be shamed and condemned for this, not honored.

‘And the fact their ad campaign refuses to allow the work “gay” to be personalized onto a can further illustrates their stand against the LGBT community.

GSN asked Coca-Cola about the decision to remove them from the short-list. They didn’t comment but re-issued a statement celebrating their general ‘diversity’ credentials.

Meanwhile the rest of the awards will celebrate individuals and firms contributing to LGBTI life in the UK.

The dinner will be held in London’s Landmark Hotel on 25 April, hosted by Coronation Street star Charlie Condou and Land Girls actress Sophie Ward.

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