Norwegian Health minister to take husband to Sochi Paralympics
|Bent Høie and Dag Terje Solvang at Oslo Pride in June last year - |
Photo: Erlend Aas / Scanpix NTB
OSLO -- Norway's highest-profile gay politician will attend the Sochi Paralympic Games with his husband as the official representative of the government of King Harald V in March. Health Minister Bent Hoie said Monday he would bring husband Dag Terje Solvang, a senior advertising executive, to Sochi, Russia when he attends the Paralympics which will be held next month after the main Winter Olympic Games.
"I cannot wait to watch and support all the Norwegian athletes," Hoie told the Stavanger Aftenblad newspaper, "These are athletes with disabilities who perform at a very high level."
Hoeie pointed out that it was normal for a cabinet official to travel with a spouse on such an official visit, "It's natural to take Dag Terje along when attending this type of event," he said adding, "Having said that, everyone understands what two married men think about gay rights."
Bard Nylund, the leader of the Norwegian LGBT Association, called on Hoie to make a statement on gay rights.
"He should say something explicitly to his Russian colleagues if he gets the opportunity during his visit to Sochi," Nylund said. "That much should be expected."
This display of support by the Health Minister for LGBTQ Rights comes on the heels of the nearly seven month long global campaign by LGBTQ Equality activists calling for a boycott of the main Winter Olympics over passage of the Russian anti-gay propaganda law.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has publicly maintained that the law is intended only to protect young people and not to discriminate against homosexuals, adding that there will be no discrimination at the Olympics and that gays are welcome.
Several western leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama, French President Francois Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron have declined to attend instead sending lower level officials in their place.
The United States is sending high-profile gay athletes as part of its delegation, including tennis player Billie Jean King, ice hockey player Catilin Cahow and figure skater Brian Boitano.
Norway has won more Winter Olympic medals than any other nation and is likely to finish high in the medal table in the main games in Sochi. Oslo is also bidding to host the 2022 winter Olympics.
Gay activists claim that Russia's anti-gay propaganda law has caused a rise of homophobia and hate crimes against LGBTQ Russians, casting a shadow over the $50-billion Games.