George Takei is correct: move the 2014 Winter Olympic Games to Vancouver

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

Russia has a long, dark history of its rulers scapegoating and persecuting minorities, in particular Jews, in official state-sanctioned pogroms, dating back to Medieval times.

Columnist Wayne Besen argues that Russia's Anti-Gay Pogrom Has Disturbing Parallels to Medieval Anti-Semitism:

What we are witnessing in Russia is a modern pogrom. The state is
imposing social death on its LGBT population and its new law is designed
to make openly gay people disappear through force and intimidation. If
one is out of the closet in this sick society, they will have a limited
future, to put it mildly.

History teaches us that targeting and bashing minorities is a
dangerous game that could lead down a road with unintended consequences.
The record is clear, particularly in this part of the world, that once
scapegoats are designated for retribution, things rarely turn out well
for the victims.

Of course, with the world watching and organizing a determined
campaign against Russia’s barbarism, things might not turn out so well
for Vladimir Putin’s Russia either. In real life, just like the movies,
the evil dictator and the uncivilized state usually get what they
deserve in the end, and I suspect this time will be no exception.

Same-sex marriage is legally recognized in fourteen countries — Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Uruguay — and New Zealand as of August 19, 2013. England and Wales recently enacted legislation to recognize same-sex marriage in mid-2014. Some states of Mexico and the United States also legally recognize same-sex marriage.

Athletes, coaches, judges, media and tourists/spectators from these countries are at risk of arrest at the Sochi Winter Olympic Games in Russia, in February 2014.

Actor and LGBT activist George Takei weighed in on Russia’s harsh new anti-gay policies–and the news that those policies would be enforced on athletes and spectators at the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014. George Takei petitions: ‘Move the 2014 Winter Olympics out of Russia’:

“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,”
wrote Takei on his blog.

On The Last Word Wednesday, Takei told MSNBC’s Lawrence
O’Donnell that having the Olympics in Sochi would “besmirch the Olympics
name as well as all the corporate [sponsors].”

Takei joins a number of prominent figures who have spoken out against
Russia’s draconian anti-gay laws, including actors Harvey Fierstein and
Stephen Fry. In a recent piece
for The New York Times, Fierstein said the Olympics Committee must
“demand the retraction of these laws under threat of boycott.” Fry wrote
British Prime Minister David Cameron an open letter imploring, “At all
costs, Putin cannot be seen to have the approval of the civilised
world.”

Takei echoes Fierstein and Fry, arguing against the view that moving the Olympics out of Russia would be a step too far.

“Would this be their opinion if the law instead called for the arrest
of any Jews, Roman Catholics or Muslims should they display any sign of
their religion, such as a wearing a yarmulke or praying while facing
Mecca?” Takei wrote. “Discrimination in any form is a blight upon the
Winter Games, and it must not be tolerated.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a number of laws in recent weeks that target the LGBT community,
including one that bans the adoption of Russian-born children by
homosexuals. The law most relevant to the Winter Olympics is one which
allows Russian authorities to detain tourists or foreign nationals who
are gay or pro-gay for up to 14 days.

“An athlete of nontraditional sexual orientation isn’t banned from
coming to Sochi,” Russia’s sports minister Vitaly Mutko said in an
interview last Thursday. “But if he goes out into the streets and starts
to propagandize, then of course he will be held accountable.”


SochiOn his blog, Takei promotes a petition
which would move the 2014 Winter Olympics to Vancouver
(Change.org), where they were
held in 2010, and where many facilities are still in operation. By
Wednesday afternoon, 56,000 people had signed it.

“This is a situation of good vs. evil. It is evil that is happening
there, and we must not play into Putin’s game,” said Takei on The Last Word.

John Aravosis at Americablog.com writes NYT: IOC may ban Olympic athletes who stand up to Russian homophobia:

A scathing news story from the New York Times‘ Jeré Longman about the fecklessness of the International Olympic Committee, and the US Olympic Committee, in the face of Russian threats to arrest gay, and gay-friendly, Olympic athletes and guests at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Longman reports that not only did the IOC not lift a finger to
pressure the Russians to lay off their gay-bashing, but the US Olympic
Committee in a recent letter published by Chris Geidner at Buzzfeed sounded like it was more concerned about competing than human rights:

“While we strongly support equal rights for all, our
mission is sustained competitive excellence and our focus will be to
deliver a well prepared team and to put our athletes in a position to be
the best they can be.”

Why add that in a letter purportedly expressing concern about the
safety of our athletes?  That’s the equivalent of the infamous “yes,
but.”

* * *

What’s more, the International Olympic Committee may punish gay athletes
who stand up to Russia’s attempts to – wait for it – punish gay
athletes
. That could pose problems for athletes like New Zealand speedskater Blake Skjellerup, who has pledged to wear a rainbow pin at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, a move that is illegal under Russian law.

Of course, even more troublesome, if the IOC punishes Olympic athletes
for wearing rainbow pins – which aren’t really political at all, the pin
simply means you’re gay, which is no different than saying you’re
black, or you’re Jewish – then the IOC will be agreeing, and enforcing,
Russia’s perverse new law which states that anything that isn’t anti-gay
is “pro-gay.”

The IOC will quite literally become an arm of the authoritarian
Russian state, enforcing Russian law, and thus violating its own
charter’s commitment to human rights
, since the IOC will be agreeing
that human rights are political, and politics are banned from the
Olympics, thus human rights are banned.

I may not be explaining this clearly enough.  Russia says that if
Blake Skjellerup appears on television with his boyfriend, just as all
Olympians have their families at the Games with them, then Skellerup is
committing an illegal political act. Will the Olympics be kicking
Skjellerup, or any other gay athlete, out of the games if they appear in
public with their spouses, since the host country clearly defines those
acts are political, and politics are banned per the IOC?

And if the IOC refuses to let gay Olympic athletes, and guests, be
arrested by the Russian authorities for simply appearing in public with
their spouses, then the IOC will itself be acting “politically,” in
violation of its own charter – since the IOC tells us that standing up
to Russia’s law is banned political activity.

Thus, under the IOC’s own logic, not only must the International Olympic Committee not interfere with Russia’s efforts to arrest gay Olympians, the IOC must actively work with the Russians to commit gross violations of human rights against its own Olympians.

Still not sounding like 1936?

Here’s the NYT:

Olympic officials worldwide, including those in the
United States, along with NBC and corporate sponsors, have put
themselves and athletes in an awkward position by only tepidly opposing
the Russian law that bans “homosexual propaganda.”….
[T]hose who organize, broadcast and underwrite the Games have offered little beyond tardy and lukewarm criticism.

The Olympic charter calls sport a human right that should be
practiced “without discrimination of any kind.”
But all the indignation
the I.O.C. could muster about Russia’s new antigay law was a statement
saying the Olympic Committee would “oppose in the strongest terms any
move that would jeopardize this principle.”

Just as the I.O.C. said it had received assurances that the law would
not be enforced at the Sochi Games, Russia’s sports minister said that
it would be.

The Times didn’t have much of anything nice to say about the US Olympic Committee either, even though the Russian actions are a direct violation of the Olympic charter. More from the Times (including that earlier quote):

The United States Olympic Committee could have joined
with Olympic committees from other nations and said they would not
tolerate such a discriminatory law.

But that did not happen. And American officials decided not to speak
out unilaterally. Scott Blackmun, the U.S.O.C.’s chief executive, sent a
note to American Olympic officials saying, “While we strongly support
equal rights for all, our mission is sustained competitive excellence”
and not political advocacy.

The Times also notes that McDonald’s and Coke, two of the big
corporate sponsors of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, have
remained mute about Russia’s violent crackdown, even though the Russian
actions are in violation of the companies’ own non-discrimination
polices.

I’m actually kind of stunned as to how good this story is.  And coming on the heels of President
Obama’s comments last night on the Jay Leno show, about Russia’s
threats to arrest gay and gay-friendly Olympic athletes
, the Olympics are finding themselves in quite a pickle.

George Takei is correct: the parallels to the Summer Olympic Games in Munich in 1936 are clear. It gave legitimacy, acceptance and stature to Adolph Hitler. The world should not repeat this mistake again.

This is not a boycott of the Sochi Winter Olympics; this is the athletes of the world and the IOC — and its multi-billion dollar corporate and media sponsors — taking a stand to say to Russia that its disregard for human rights and the Olympic Charter, and its unwillingness to ensure the safety of athletes, coaches, judges, media and tourists/spectators will result in the Winter Olympic Games being awarded to another host city.

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2 responses to “George Takei is correct: move the 2014 Winter Olympic Games to Vancouver

  1. Nobody wants a boycott (staying home). Takei proposes to move it to Vancouver, honoring the Olympic Charter and human rights, and allowing the Games to go forward.

    Americans have been on a long road to correcting our own dark history of slavery, genocide, state-sanctioned segregation, and sexism. We still have a long way to go as you indicate.

  2. Holding it in Vancouver would put it in the 21st century for sure . . . Russia, not so much.