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Coca-Cola Drops the Ball on Gay Rights at Sochi

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Although activists will target other companies too, many hoped Coca-Cola would lead the way with a strong statement against Russia's new laws.

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Activists may indeed decide to petition other sponsors of the Olympic Games. "We have focused on Coke because they have a clear timetable in which they will make a decision over whether to make a public statement condemning the Russian law," says SumOfUs' Martin Caldwell. "If Coke made that choice it would have a huge impact on other companies and on the IOC and Russian government. It doesn't mean we won't target other companies…."

Meanwhile, a sudden and suspect message of tolerance came from Vladimir Putin on Monday. The Russian president, who has stood by the law, now appears to be doing some late-game damage control. During an inspection of the venues at Sochi, he told the head of the IOC that Russia will "do its best to make sure that participants and guests of the Sochi Games feel comfortable irrespective of their nationality, race, or sexual orientation."

As it stands, the federal law -- written in anticipation of the Winter Games -- is still very much in black and white, with Russia's sports minister assuring its enforcement.

Putin has a lot riding on Sochi. Far more than celebrating athleticism, his country's $50 million investment in the Games will cast a worldwide spotlight on a modernized Russia largely unseen since its break from the Soviet Union and Communist rule.

Ironically, it's civil rights that truly make a country advanced, and they don't cost a thing.

Until the law is officially struck from the record, any kind of enlightened-sounding speech is just lip service -- whether it's coming from a president, or a corporation.
No positions in stocks mentioned.

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