‘Lie low’: Spanish skater tells Sochi’s gay athletes

Spain's main representative and flag bearer at the Sochi Winter Olympics has been widely criticized after he told a Spanish newspaper on Friday that "it's better if homosexuals (athletes) keep a low profile at the Games".

'Lie low': Spanish skater tells Sochi's gay athletes
Javier Fernandez performs during the gala exhibition in the NHK Trophy in Tokyo, 2013. Photo: Toru Yamanaka/AFP

Two-time men’s European figure skatingchampion Javier Fernández has no doubt lost some fans in Spain and abroad after he made the comments in an interview with Spanish daily El Mundo on Friday.

When asked what he thought of all the news surrounding Russia’s anti-gay propaganda laws, the 22-year-old told the broadsheet:  

“The games are sport, not politics. I have my own opinions and I won’t get involved in what anyone else thinks, but I do believe you have to respect the laws of the countries you visit.

“It’s not such a big dilemma. It’s better if homosexuals (athletes) don’t make such a meal of it at the games.”

Last June, Russia passed an anti-gay “propaganda” bill banning the promotion of homosexuality to minors, which has given rise to international criticism and calls to boycott the games.

Fernández’s words have been met by a wave of criticism on Twitter and other social media, with some Spaniards calling for him to be removed as their national flag bearer at the games.

“The German teams gets a rainbow-coloured kit and our flag bearer Javier Fernández tells us to ‘lie low’”, wrote one Twitter user.

“Javier Fernández tells gays to ‘lie low’ while he goes to Sochi with his girlfriend,” tweeted another.

A popular hashtag called #YoNoMeCorto, #I’mNotLyingLow in English, is already becoming a trending topic among Spanish Twitter users.

Fernández , who currently resides and trains in Canada, said last month “It is a huge honour to be the flag bearer at the Sochi Olympics.”   

Having retained his European title in Budapest on Saturday, he is the main medal hope amongst the team of 21 Spanish athletes who will travel to take part in the games.

After winning bronze at last year’s world championships, Fernández said he sometimes feels like an Eskimoplaying volleyball as he tries to get a look-in in football-mad Spain.

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Spanish court probes Russian tycoon’s purchase of supermarket chain Dia

Spain's top criminal court said Thursday it has opened an investigation into whether Russian tycoon Mikhail Fridman artificially depressed the share price of supermarket chain Dia before buying the firm.

Spanish court probes Russian tycoon's purchase of supermarket chain Dia
File photo of a Dia supermarket. Photo: AFP

The Kremlin-friendly oligarch appeared in court in Madrid on Monday as part of a separate similar case in which judges are investigating allegations he acted to bring down the value of another Spanish takeover target, digital entertainment firm Zed Worldwide.   

He denied all charges in that case in a statement released after he was questioned in court.

An investigating judge with the National Court “has begun investigating a complaint” against Fridman and his Luxembourg-based investment company LetterOne “in connection with its acquisition of Dia”, according to a document from the court published Thursday.   

In May, LetterOne secured majority control of the struggling supermarket chain via a hostile takeover following a bitter dispute with its previous management as the firm's share price slumped.

The judge is investigating allegations made in an anonymous complaint that LetterOne “maintained a heightened financial tension to lower the share price, until it managed to buy the company,” the court document said.

Spain's Supreme Court had in September given the National Court a mandate to investigate this case which it said could constitute the crime of “market manipulation” and could have had “serious repercussions on… the national economy” given the size of Dia's supermarket network in the country, the document added.

It cited a police report alleging that Fridman acted in a “coordinated and concerted way” through a network of “criminal associates… to create a situation of conflict… and lack of liquidity in the short term” so as to lower Dia's price and buy the firm.   

In a statement, LetterOne called these allegations “totally false and defamatory”.

“The reality is Dia suffered from mismanagement and accounting irregularities were discovered, which negatively affected all shareholders, including LetterOne,” it added.

LetterOne said it was “committed” to investing 1.6 billion euros to protect jobs, suppliers and keep stores open.

Through LetterOne, Fridman also controls interests in telecoms, banking, oil and healthcare.   

The tycoon, who is reportedly close to the Kremlin and was listed by Forbes this year as London's richest resident, is also one of the founders of Alfa Bank, Russia's largest privately-held lender.

READ MORE: From Russia with love: Tycoon buys out ailing Spanish supermarket