“Star Trek” actor and prominent gay rights activist George Takei has called on the International Olympic Committee to move the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics out of Russia in response to the nation’s increasingly draconian anti-gay laws.
“The IOC must do the right thing, protect its athletes and the fans, and move the 2014 Winter Olympics out of Russia,” Takei said in a statement on his blog Tuesday.
Throughout his post, Takei argues that the International Olympic Committee will be unable to protect LGBT athletes from becoming victims of Russia’s recent anti-gay legislation. He also references the campaign to boycott Russian vodka Stolichnaya, arguing that a boycott of one brand will do little to affect Russia’s overall policy. Instead, he says that to send a message to Russian lawmakers, the entire 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics must be moved.
“With Russia’s confirmation that it will enforce its law, our LGBT athletes are in real danger, and their safety must be paramount,” Takei wrote.
“Nations are not judged merely on their might, but also by how they treat their most vulnerable,” he continued. “Russia’s cynical and deplorable actions against the LGBT community have given license to hate groups within its borders to act with violence and impunity against a group, based solely on whom they were born to love. It now seeks to spread that hate abroad through its tainted Olympics. If Russia hopes to stand with the International Community, it must accept and adopt international principles of equality and non-discrimination.”
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At the end of his post, Takei suggested Vancouver as a possible alternate location for the 2014 games, noting that the Canadian city was the most recent host to the Winter Olympics in 2010. Because the facilities in Vancouver are still in good condition, Takei argues, it would be the easiest possible replacement for Sochi. He ended he post linking to a petition formally asking the IOC to move the Winter Olympics.
Despite mounting protests against the Sochi Winter Olympics, the International Olympic Committee has done its best to save face by assuring competing nations that their athletes will not be subject to Russian anti-gay legislation during the games.
“The IOC has received assurances from the highest level of government in Russia that the legislation will not affect those attending or taking part in the games,” the committee said in a statement, adding, “This legislation has just been passed into law, and it remains to be seen whether and how it will be implemented, particularly as regards the games in Sochi.”
While the IOC has assured competing countries that athletes won’t be arrested for pro-gay behavior, Vitaly Mironov, a St. Petersburg lawmaker and author of “gay propaganda” legislation that precipitated three federal anti-gay laws, claims that the IOC has no power to suspend Russia's laws during the games.
"If a law has been approved by the federal legislature and signed by the president, then the government has no right to suspend it. It doesn’t have the authority,” Milonov said in an interview with Interfax, "Any normal athlete or sport fan arrives to support his team and to watch sport events in their splendor, not to violate the laws of the hosting country."