Storm over rainbow nails clouds Sweden gold

A rare gold medal win by Sweden at the World Athletics Championships on Thursday in Moscow was overshadowed by the controversy that erupted after some Swedish athletes painted their fingernails rainbow colours to protest Russia's anti-gay laws.

Storm over rainbow nails clouds Sweden gold

Sweden’s Ethiopian-born Abeba Aregawi won the women’s 1500m title with a time of 4min 02.67sec. The win by Aregawi, who was only cleared to run for Sweden in December 2012, six months after receiving Swedish citizenship, marked Sweden’s first World Athletics gold in six years.

However, news of Aregawi’s win was dwarfed by the actions of Swedish high jumper Emma Green Tregaro and sprinter Moa Hjelmer, who made headlines and stirred up controversy after the painting their fingernails with the colours of the rainbow.

The move was a “silent protest” according to Hjelmer, who along with Green Tregaro wanted to show their disapproval for laws recently passed in Russia banning “gay propaganda”.

“We can’t choose where the championships are being held, but it is sad that they have these attitudes. It should be self-evident that everyone should have the same rights,” Hjelmer told Sveriges Radio (SR).

Green Tregaro, who first hatched plans for the rainbow nail protest in Moscow via social media on Wednesday, called the decision “the perfect opportunity to show what I think”.

“To me, love for another person is the most beautiful thing in the world, and that’s what I want to show, no matter the gender or whatever,” she told SR.

While the athletes won wide praise in Sweden, Russian pole vaulting gold medalist Yelena Isinbayeva slammed the Swedes’ colourful jab at Russia’s anti-gay laws.

“It’s unrespectful to our country, it’s unrespectful to our citizens. Because we are Russians, maybe we are different from European people, maybe we are different to people from other lands, but we have our laws that everyone has to respect,” she told reporters on Thursday.

Swedish gold medalist Aregawi also refused to lend her support to her follow athletes’ show of support for gay rights.

“Personally, because my faith doesn’t allow it, I don’t support it,” she told reporters at a press conference.

She clarified later for the Expressen newspaper through an interpreter that her religion doesn’t allow “men to be with men and women to be with women”.

According to Expressen, a spokesman for the Swedish athletics association later asked Swedish journalists to refrain from publishing Aregawi’s quotes because she didn’t realize how controversial they were.

The head of the Swedish athletics association, Tomas Riste, nevertheless regretted that Aregawi and Green Tregaro didn’t see eye to eye on the issue.

“It’s unfortunate that members of the national team are against each other,” he told Expressen.

“We live in a multicultural society with different opinions and freedom of religion. I’m not bothered by one or the other.”

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Gay Sweden Democrat backs party’s Pride flag decision

The anti-immigration Sweden Democrats' most senior openly gap MP has defended party colleagues' decision to stop flying the rainbow gay pride flag outside a local city council headquarters.

Gay Sweden Democrat backs party's Pride flag decision
Christian Democrat leader Ebba Busch Thor took part in the Stockholm pride parade this August. Photo: Stina Stjernkvist/TT
Bo Broman, who has himself several times attended Sweden's largest Pride parade in Stockholm, told The Local that the rainbow flag was “an important symbol, for me and for many others”. 
But he said he did not believe it was appropriate for any political symbol to be flown outside a public building. 
“I personally don't think that any political symbol or flag representing organisations, companies, football teams and so on belongs on public flagpoles,” he said. 
“No matter how inportant the issue is, public flagpoles should only carry the Swedish flag, the official flag for the municipality, flags from visiting countries and perhaps that of the EU or UN.” 
Bo Broman, who was previously the Sweden Democrats' financial chief, became an MP after the 2018 election. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT
The city council in Solvesborg in the county of Blekinge voted on Thursday to no longer fly the rainbow flag on the flagpole outside its offices, where it has since 2013 been hoisted once a year to show support for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people on the day of the pride parade in Stockholm. 
The vote has been widely criticised, with Filippa Reinfeldt, the   lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer rights spokesperson for the Moderate Party saying the backing the party's local wing gave to the decision was “inappropriate”.  
But Broman pointed out that Magnus Kolsjö, a former president of The Swedish federation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer rights (RFSL), had also backed Solversborg's decision. 
“We need to be able to keep the political, private and civil society on one side, and the state and municipality on the other,” Kolsjö, who is now a Christian Democrat politician, wrote on his blog on Sunday. 
“To hoist up a political symbol, even if it stands for values which many support, doesn't fit with the needs to maintain objectivity.” 
The council decision was pushed by the ruling four-party coalition of the Sweden Democrats, Moderates, Christian Democrats and the local SoL party.