United States President Barack Obama has added his voice to the chorus of disapproval over 2014 Winter Olympic host Russia’s contentious new anti-gay law and issued a warning that he has “no patience” for countries discriminating against gay, lesbian and transgender people.
“When it comes to universal rights, when it comes to people’s basic freedoms, that whether you are discriminating on the basis of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation, you are violating the basic morality that I think should transcend every country,” Obama said in an interview on The Tonight Show.
“I have no patience for countries that try to treat gays and lesbians or transgender persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them.
“I think [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and Russia have a big stake in making sure the Olympics work, and I think they understand that for most of the countries that participate in the Olympics, we wouldn’t tolerate gays and lesbians being treated differently.
“They’re there to compete.
“If Russia wants to uphold the Olympic spirit, then every judgment should be made on the track or in the swimming pool or on the balance beam.
“People’s sexual orientations shouldn’t have anything to do with it.”
Meanwhile, British actor Stephen Fry has called for Prime Minister David Cameron to back the campaign against a Russian Winter Olympics.
In an open letter to Cameron and the IOC published on his website today – the six months to go to Sochi 2014 milestone – the openly-gay activist insists that “an absolute ban” on the Olympics being staged in Russia is “simply essential” following the introduction of the anti-gay bill.
“[Putin] is making scapegoats of gay people, just as Hitler did Jews,” the letter reads. “He cannot be allowed to get away with it.”
Signed by Putin in June, Russia’s anti-gay bill – an amendment to the law “On protecting children from information harmful to their health and development” – imposes fines on individuals accused of spreading “prohibiting propaganda of homosexuality.”
The move sparked global protest, with activist groups and senior Olympic officials, including the likes of International Olympic Committee (IOC) Presidential candidate Richard Carrión and Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) President Marcel Aubut, lobbying against the controversial law.
Despite this, Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko last week confirmed the law would be enforced during next year’s Olympics, although IOC vice-president Ser Miang Ng claimed on Monday (August 5) that “quiet diplomacy” was at work to ensure that the row does not ruin the Games.
As exclusively reported by insidethegames in June, the IOC has reiterated its “commitment to non-discrimination against those taking part in the Olympic Games” and said it has received assurances from Russia’s Government that the legislation will not affect Sochi 2014.
“The IOC is an open organization and athletes of all orientations will be welcome at the Games,” a spokesperson insisted.
Inside the Games is a blog of the London Organizing Committee that helped put on the 2012 Summer Olympics. This article is reprinted here with permission of the authors of the blog.