02/05/2014 11:22 EST | Updated 02/05/2014 11:59 EST

Gay Olympic Athletes Are Brave To Compete At This Year's Games

FILE - In this Wednesday, May 1, 2013, file photo, gay rights activists carry rainbow flags as they march during a May Day rally in St. Petersburg, Russia. With the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi set to start in February, Russia has trotted out well-groomed representatives to tell the West that a law passed this summer banning homosexual ?propaganda? does not discriminate against gays. Meanwhile, the Russian government has doubled down on the anti-LGBT rhetoric at home, unifying its fraying electoral base with a popular refrain of traditional values. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky, File)

Competing for an Olympic gold medal alongside other world-class athletes is intimidating enough -- imagine fearing harassment or violence as well.

That's what LGBT athletes at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi have to deal with after Russia passed a much-publicized anti-gay propaganda law last year. Though Russian President Vladimir Putin has reassured gay visitors that they'll be safe, he also said they should "leave children alone." Gay Russians face ongoing violence and discrimination.

Sochi's mayor has even decreed that there are no gay people in the city, which is definitely false, and that gay folks are welcome so long as they don't "impose their habits and their will on others." If by habits and will the mayor means talent, sportsmanship and determination, then he won't be too happy with the crop of openly-gay athletes coming to Sochi.

Canada, meanwhile, has found a way to honour a tradition that's been outlawed at this year's Games. In February, Toronto will host the Pride House, which is a safe location for LGBT athletes, volunteers and visitors to come and cheer on their favourite athletes at the Games.

Check out some of the gay athletes competing in and attending this year's Games in the slideshow below:

Gay Athletes At The 2014 Sochi Olympics