Russia isn’t winning any gold medals for tolerance.
In the wake of the country’s anti-gay laws passed in June, many are speaking out regarding Russia’s ability to hold the 2014 Winter Olympics, and if they do, whether other countries should boycott.
George Takei, in a blog post titled, “Sochi: Winter of Hate” spoke against Russia’s “draconian gay propaganda law,” explaining, “Last week, Russia’s Sports Minister confirmed that the country intends to enforce its laws against visiting LGBT athletes, trainers and fans, meaning anyone even so much as waving a rainbow flag (and I presume many men enthusiastically watching and dramatically commenting on figure skating) would be arrested, held for weeks and then deported. Given this position, the IOC must do the right thing, protect its athletes and the fans, and move the 2014 Winter Olympics out of Russia.”
He went on to say that boycotting the games punishes innocent athletes that have worked for years to participate, and instead, urged his readers to sign a Change.org petition to move the winter games to Vancouver (where they were held in 2010, and because of that, could likely be set up there easier than in a brand-new country).
Stephen Fry also weighed in with his plea for a venue change to another country. “It is simply not enough to say that gay Olympians may or may not be safe in their village,” he wrote. “An absolute ban on the Russian Winter Olympics of 2014 on Sochi is simply essential. Stage them elsewhere in Utah, Lilyhammer, anywhere you like. At all costs [Vladimir] Putin cannot be seen to have the approval of the civilised world.”
Takei and Fry join earlier Hollywood voices including Milk screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, who didn’t speak directly about the Olympics, but urged bigwigs in the industry to speak out about Russia’s policies, and Harvey Fierstein, who wrote in a New York Times op-ed, “With Russia about to hold the Winter Games in Sochi, the country is open to pressure….The Olympic Committee must demand the retraction of these laws under threat of boycott. In 1936 the world attended the Olympics in Germany. Few participants said a word about Hitler’s campaign against the Jews. Supporters of that decision point proudly to the triumph of Jesse Owens, while I point with dread to the Holocaust and world war. There is a price for tolerating intolerance.”
For the President’s part, when asked about the situation in Russia by Jay Leno during his Tonight Show appearance Tuesday night, President Obama condemned the policy, but did not throw his weight behind a boycott yet. “I think Putin and Russia have a big stake in making sure the Olympics work,” he said. “And I think they understand that for most of the countries that participate in the Olympics, that we wouldn’t tolerate gays and lesbians being treated any differently.”
A request for comment to NBC, which will broadcast the Olympics, was not immediately returned.