The Two-Way
9:40 am
Mon August 19, 2013

End Of The Rainbow: Swedish Athlete Repaints Nails Red

Emma Green Tregaro, the Swedish athlete who painted her fingernails the colors of a rainbow to show support for gay rights, has repainted her nails red, after track and field's governing body warned that her nails flouted its ban on political statements at events.

Green Tregaro, who finished fifth in the high jump Saturday at the world championships in Moscow, had initially painted her fingernails as a subtle way to protest Russia's recent passage of a law banning gay "propaganda."

The International Amateur Athletic Federation, which governs track and field, forbids making political or commercial statements during competitions. Anders Albertsson, general secretary of the Swedish athletics federation, says the rule was clarified for his group, and that word was then passed along to Sweden's athletes.

"We have been informally approached by the IAAF saying that this is by definition, a breach of the regulations. We have informed our athletes about this," Albertsson said, according to Swedish news site The Local.

Despite the warning, he said, it was up to Green Tregaro to decide what to do with her fingernails. And she chose to paint them red — "for love," she said.

"It was harder to not paint them in the rainbow than it was to choose to paint them," Green Tregaro said Saturday, according to The Associated Press. "I'm surprised by the big reactions, but I'm happy about the big reaction because it's mostly been very positive."

After Green Tregaro and a teammate painted their nails in the rainbow colors last week, she posted a photo of her hand to Instagram, in a message that included the tags "#pride" and "#moscow2013."

At the time, a spokesman for Sweden's track team said such concerns were up to the athletes. But it gained new prominence after elite Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva, a global star in her discipline, criticized Green Tregaro's paint job and called it disrespectful to Russia.

"We are Russians. Maybe we are different than European people, than other people from different lands," Isinbayeva said Thursday, according to the BBC. "We have our law which everyone has to respect. It's my opinion also."

But on Friday, Isinbayeva said she thought her statement had been misunderstood, possibly because she delivered it in English instead of her native language. A two-time Olympic gold medalist and holder of multiple world records, Isinbayeva is a centerpiece of Russia's plans to host the Winter Olympics in 2014.

Russia's new law, which bans providing information about homosexuality to minors, has met with criticism from those who see it as part of a push to undermine gay rights. It has also prompted concerns from national and international organizations over how the law might affect their athletes, as well as spectators and other visitors. In addition to next year's Olympics, Russia will host soccer's World Cup in 2018.

As the world championships concluded on Sunday, Russia's minister of sport, Vitaly Mutko, said the freedoms of those who come to Sochi "will be absolutely protected," CBS News reports.

But he also said, "We want to protect our children whose psyches have not formed from the propaganda of drug use, drunkenness and non-traditional sexual relations."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.