LONDON Protesters have latched on to an online marketing campaign run by McDonald's to vent their anger over the treatment of gays by Olympic host Russia.
Olympic sponsor McDonald's launched the #CheerstoSochi campaign which allows fans to send greetings to athletes and teams via Twitter. However, the link has proved a magnet for activists opposed to Russia's "gay propaganda" law.
"CheerstoSochi let's think about all the gays over there that are suffering while everyone else has fun," said one message posted on Friday.
McDonald's said it was aware that activists were targeting it and other Olympic sponsors.
"McDonald's supports human rights, the spirit of the Olympics and all the athletes who've worked so hard to compete in the Games," it said in a statement.
"We believe the Olympic Games should be open to all, free of discrimination, and that applies to spectators, officials, media and athletes."
Rights groups have called for sponsors and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to put more pressure on Russia over its attitude towards the gay community.
Campaigners have also teamed up with clothing group American Apparel to sell merchandise inspired by an anti-discrimination pledge in the Olympic charter.
(Writing by Keith Weir; Editing by Rex Gowar)