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International Olympic Committee Pressured to Take a Stand Against Countries Which Oppress Gays

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The International Olympic Committee is responding tepidly to growing calls for action against anti-gay nations applying to compete in the Olympic Games as London 2012 approaches.

London2012In late May British human rights lawyer Mark Stephens wrote an article in the UK Guardian calling on the IOC to penalize countries that criminalize homosexuality:

[Stephens] called on the IOC to ban the roughly 75 countries - mostly from Africa, the Caribbean and the Islamic world - that outlaw homosexual activity. That demand has been embraced by Peter Tatchell, a leading British gay-rights campaigner, and has prompted several human rights organizations to say the IOC should at least speak out, even if a ban at this stage is unrealistic.

Stephens ended his article with three "exhortations" calling on gay athletes to come out, seek asylum if they feel endangered in their own nations, and for the IOC to ban countries that criminalize homosexuality:

The first is to LGBT athletes. You are the only ones who have the glare of attention that can be used to effect real change. If you feel safe to do so, come out and make a visible, memorable, courageous gesture for LGBT rights. Show that you are proud to be LGBT, just as Smith and Carlos were proud to be black.

The second is to the LGBT athletes who don't feel safe - and there must be many of you. I invite you to apply for asylum in this country on the grounds that you will face persecution at home if you are open about your sexual identity. Our supreme court has recognised, in HJ (Iran) in 2010, that a person cannot be asked to conceal their true sexual identity in order to avoid persecution. The court held that people must be allowed to live their lives free from the fear of serious harm coming to them as a result of their sexual identity. No one would consider it acceptable for a straight person to have to hide his or her identity: the same applies to LGBT people. LGBT athletes from the 84 criminalising jurisdictions should use this case to apply for asylum in the UK when they arrive for the Games in July.

Finally, to the IOC Committee. I implore you to ban countries where homosexuality is criminalised from competing in the Olympics. The Games are a valuable way of protecting human rights and promoting equality, a principle enshrined in the Olympic Charter itself. To distinguish between racial apartheid in South Africa, gender apartheid under the Taliban and the criminalisation of consensual sex between adults of the same gender is artificial. Countries that sanction such discrimination, and the violence that goes with it, should not be allowed to compete. Far from bringing politics into sport, this step would fulfil the values of the Olympic Charter.

Pressure has stepped up since Stephens' article was published but the IOC has so far only issued a meaningless blanket statement:

IOC spokeswoman Emmanuelle Moreau, asked about the appeals, noted that the Olympic Charter "clearly states that any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement."

Moreau gave no indication if the IOC would do anything to raise the particular issue of anti-gay laws and discrimination among its member nations.

Out gay former NBA player and Brit John Amaechi called it "cowardice":

"They're abdicating the responsibility that comes with the power they have. Where is that bold, progressive Olympic movement that sees great injustice in the world and says, `Whatever the risk, we won't let people who violate our tenets join us."

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Comments

  1. I am so sick of people and governments trying to politicize the Olympics. The Olympic Games are just about the only time and place at which the people of the world can set aside all their differences and just focus on athletic competition.

    This is a very bad idea.

    Posted by: Rick | Jun 13, 2012 11:10:50 AM


  2. Or it's a terrific idea because the liberation of LGBT people around the world means a true liberation for athletes to achieve their Personal Best. (get the reference?)

    I'm sick of governments politicizing my life, my love and my right to freedom and happiness.

    This is a great idea. Hey, Russia - don'tcha love winning all those skating gymnastic-y medals? Get your anti-gay s**t in check or it's over.

    Posted by: Tyler | Jun 13, 2012 11:18:14 AM


  3. They're just getting tuned up for the 2014 Winter Games in that gay-friendly host country of Russia! Maybe it should be deferred to 2114 when the 100-year ban on "gay propaganda" comes to an end....

    Posted by: Hue-Man | Jun 13, 2012 11:22:11 AM


  4. Just wait til "Queers for Palestine" hears about this!

    Posted by: Myackie | Jun 13, 2012 11:24:26 AM


  5. ".... mostly from Africa, the Caribbean and the Islamic world....."

    Hilarious. Not only won't they be penalized but you might just be for even suggesting they be, and called "racist" natch.

    Posted by: MarkUs | Jun 13, 2012 11:43:34 AM


  6. i agree with the sentiment of this but seriously there are countries in the world that treat women in appalling ways...surely this would take precedent ? If you are going to make a stand about oppression then start by tackling countries where women are second class citizens first ?

    Posted by: paul | Jun 13, 2012 12:23:51 PM


  7. That stadium is massive. How much does it cost London and the UK to host? What are they going to do with the stuff they built once it's over?

    Having lived in places while major events occurred, I can say it was a PITA. I actually feel for the average Londoner; their life is going to be hell if they actually must stay in town for work or whatever.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Jun 13, 2012 12:30:42 PM


  8. They allow dictatorships to participate. Olympics are not about politics, just sport and the unity of humankind. Move on.

    Posted by: Terry | Jun 13, 2012 12:58:01 PM


  9. "That stadium is massive. How much does it cost London and the UK to host?"

    $15 billion.

    Thank you Tony Blair.

    Posted by: PaulR | Jun 13, 2012 1:02:20 PM


  10. How shocking can this tepid response be when they sued the Gay Games when it tried to call itself the Gay Olympics?

    Posted by: topdawgbombadil | Jun 13, 2012 1:16:08 PM


  11. Banning these countries from participating in the Olympics is a horrendous idea. If enacted, it places the burden of punishment on the athletes from these nations. Clearly, none of these athletes have the political or social power to change the policies of their nations.

    For anyone that thinks this is a good idea, I ask you to consider a similar scenario: Would it be okay for the US Olympic Committee to decide to ban athletes that are residents of states that have homophobic laws?

    Posted by: alex | Jun 13, 2012 1:24:15 PM


  12. Actually, it's coming in on budget. This is a low cost Olympics since Beijing was of the order of $30billion. Both include infrastructure improvements. The legacy arrangements are almost all in place although the stadium itself is the subject of still open proposals. The area renovated will be a huge part of East London economy, anchored as it is by largest urban mall in Europe. The athelte's village are a viable commercial proposition for selling. The media centre will become offices. The basketball arena is being taken down and moved to Brazil.

    Such a shame the LBGT Open House didn't take off - couldn't get funding.

    Posted by: Paul Mc | Jun 13, 2012 3:31:09 PM


  13. Actually, it's coming in on budget. This is a low cost Olympics since Beijing was of the order of $30billion. Both include infrastructure improvements. The legacy arrangements are almost all in place although the stadium itself is the subject of still open proposals. The area renovated will be a huge part of East London economy, anchored as it is by largest urban mall in Europe. The athelte's village are a viable commercial proposition for selling. The media centre will become offices. The basketball arena is being taken down and moved to Brazil.

    Such a shame the LBGT Open House didn't take off - couldn't get funding.

    Posted by: Paul Mc | Jun 13, 2012 3:31:11 PM


  14. Those aforementioned countries/regions might state that unfair or unequal treatment of gays in other countries should also be reprimanded meaning: USA, Australia, most Eastern Block countries, several central/south american countries, several Asian countries as well...

    The olympics is a neutral ground leave it that way.

    Posted by: Patrick | Jun 14, 2012 12:56:07 AM


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