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June 24, 2021

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Rainbow row escalates at Euros

UEFA and Hungary came under a hail of criticism yesterday over Budapest’s anti-LGBTQ law after the football body’s refusal to light a German Euro 2020 stadium in rainbow colors, as Germany vowed to stage a defiant display of colors elsewhere.

European Union chief Ursula von der Leyen slammed as a disgrace the law passed by Viktor Orban’s government banning the “promotion” of homosexuality to minors, while Germany’s foreign minister called UEFA’s decision the “wrong signal.”

With Germany playing Hungary later yesterday at the Allianz Arena in Munich, city authorities had planned to light the stadium up in rainbow colors to “send a visible sign of solidarity” with Hungary’s LGBTQ community.

With criticism building, UEFA defended its decision but added the rainbow to its logo. In a statement, European football’s governing body said it “is proud to wear the colors of the rainbow,” a symbol for the LGBTQ community, but stood by its decision by saying the city of Munich’s request to illuminate the stadium was “political.”

Budapest praised UEFA for taking a stance against “provocation”, with stadia across the country preparing to light up in national colors in a tit-for-tat display during the Germany-Hungary match.

In Germany meanwhile, businesses and individuals made a show of their opposition to UEFA and Hungary’s anti-LGBTQ stance, decking themselves in rainbow colors while many stadia were planning rainbow light displays.

Fifteen of the EU’s member states have signed up to voice their “grave concern” at the LGBTQ law that Budapest argues will protect children.

“This bill clearly discriminates against people on the basis of their sexual orientation. And it goes against all the values, the fundamental values of the European Union,” von der Leyen told a media conference in Brussels.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, meanwhile, criticized UEFA’s refusal to allow Munich to make a stand over the issue. “It’s true, the football pitch is not about politics. It’s about people, about fairness, about tolerance. That’s why @UEFA is sending the wrong signal.”

In France, a senior official said the presidency “deeply regrets” the decision, adding that although UEFA is “religiously neutral and apolitical,” it “has values” and should show solidarity with Hungarians.

In Brussels, a top EU official said he can’t find “any reasonable excuse” for UEFA’s decision.

“Yes, I find it very difficult to understand what UEFA is trying to do by going against this initiative of the Munich city council,” European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas told a news conference yesterday. “Frankly, I do not find any reasonable excuse for that.”

Schinas said he was even more surprised by the decision since UEFA has previously supported campaigns for inclusion and against racism.

“They supported all the good causes. And all of a sudden, they make an issue out of this,” he noted.

Vowing defiance, Munich was planning to put up rainbow-colored flags at its town hall and illuminate a huge wind turbine close to the stadium, as well as the city’s 291-meter Olympic Tower.

“I find it shameful that UEFA forbids us to send a sign for cosmopolitanism, tolerance, respect and solidarity with the people of the LGBT community,” said Munich mayor Dieter Reiter.

Other stadiums across Germany were also planning rainbow light displays, including Berlin’s iconic Olympic Stadium, as well as Bundesliga stadiums in Cologne, Frankfurt and Wolfsburg.


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