Controversial Yelena Isinbayeva Continues as YOG Ambassador

August 22, 2013

The Youth Olympic Games (YOG) have confirmed that Russian pole-vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva has renewed her ambassador role with the event, just one week after courting controversy by backing Russia’s anti-gay law.

Isinbayeva lent her support to the inaugural YOG at Singapore 2010 and the two-time Olympic champion will continue as an ambassador at Nanjing 2014.

On her appointment, Isinbayeva said: “I am very happy and honoured to continue in my role as a YOG Ambassador for the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games. They are a great platform for young athletes which I experienced first-hand at Singapore 2010.”

Controversial statement

She is regarded as the world’s greatest-ever female pole-vaulter, but came under scrutiny last week for backing Russia’s anti-gay law that prohibits the promotion of gay, lesbian or bisexual issues.

At a news conference on August 15, Isinbaeva said of Emma Green-Tregaro, the Swedish high jumper who painted her fingernails in the colours of the rainbow flag: “It’s disrespectful to our country, disrespectful to our citizens because we are Russians.

“Maybe we are different than European people and people from different lands. We have our law which everyone has to respect. When we go to different countries, we try to follow their rules.

“We consider ourselves, like normal, standard people, we just live boys with women, girls with boys. It comes from the history.”


She later said she had been ‘misunderstood’ and that she was not against homosexuality, rather that ‘people should respect the laws of other countries.’

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has come under pressure to strip Sochi of the right to host the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, because the anti-gay law goes against the Olympic spirit.

However, commenting on her ambassador position, Isinbayeva backed the YOG spirit and said: “As well as preparing them for their future sports careers by exposing them to all that comes with a high-level international multi-sport event such as living in a village and the media interest, I saw for myself how the athletes made the most of the opportunities to make friends with different athletes from different countries, to experience different cultures and to really live the YOG spirit.”

Nanjing 2014 will run from August 16-28.