George Takei: It’s Time to Move the 2014 Winter Olympics Out of Russia

Actor and activist George Takei says Russia's anti-gay laws put athletes and visitors in danger, and it's time to call for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics to be moved elsewhere.

Takei writes, in part:
Takei

Many believe that such a call to move the Olympics out of Russia goes 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 yamaka or praying while facing Mecca? Discrimination in any form is a blight upon the Winter Games, and it must not be tolerated.

NBC and the corporate sponsors of the Olympics should be paying close attention, too, and should get behind the “Move the Olympics” movement now, while there is still time to do so. If the Winter Olympics proceed in Sochi, Russia, all of the goodwill they have spent millions to build will evaporate in noisy protests, boycotts, and terrible publicity. I personally will be beating this particular drum loudly, as will many other LGBT actors, activists and allies. Trust me, if you are a corporate brand, you do not want to be associated with the Sochi Olympics.

Nations are not judged merely on their might, but also by how they treat their most vulnerable. 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.

Tomorrow, the International Olympic Committee will receive more than 300,000 signatures urging it to denounce Russia's anti-gay laws. 83 members of Congress this week called on John Kerry to clarify the U.S. State Department's position on the controversy.

Russian officials have issued conflicting statements about whether athletes and visitors to the Olympics will be prosecuted under the anti-gay laws. Thus far, the IOC has said it is standing by assurances from the Russian government that the laws will not apply to Sochi visitors, which does nothing to change the fact of their existence and the human rights abuses being inflicted upon LGBT people there on a daily basis.

It's Time to Move the Olympics [george takei]

Comments

  1. Eric says

    At this point Russia appears to be on the brink of a 1938 Kristallnacht-type event against millions of LGTB citizens. We’ve been here before: the 1936 Berlin Olympics. There were clear signs then and there are clear signs now: Putin is making the LGBT citizens the scapegoats just as Hitler did with the Jews. These Olympics should be cancelled or delayed until they can be held outside of Russia. There are more important things, and the lives of 4 million to 14 million LGBT Russian citizens is more important. Also, does the IOC want to run the risk of a 1972 Munich Olympic massacre, only this time against the LGBT athletes? Do we really trust the Russian police and army to protect these athletes when they would probably be leading the attacks?

  2. Anastasia Beaverhousen says

    I fully agree. This is turning dangerous for all involved and I feel that the only way that Russia will learn its lesson is if all of the potential revenue and business the Olympics will bring is suddenly severed. I just hope it’s not too late and that such a task can be undertaken without large delays or something.

    I’m getting more and more angry about this issue as time goes on. Russia truly is turning into Nazi Germany.

    http://www.thegailygrind.com/2013/08/06/gay-teenager-kidnapped-and-tortured-by-russian-neo-nazi-group-is-believed-to-have-died-from-his-injuries-video/

  3. Bob says

    We love George, but he is too smart to think that the Olympics could still be moved. The venue would have to have all the facilities in place (thus probably a former venue) and the available hotels and athlete housing.
    There is a better chance if the Games moved to 2015, but that is very unlikely
    I figure — show up, and thank the Russians for all the publicity about Gays needing rights.

  4. RONTEX says

    I say move them to Canada where they were just held. All facilities are still in place and they would have time to get them back to perfect shape.

  5. berbear says

    @AndyTowlette, not necessarily. Many of the former Olympic venues are immediately converted to profit making versions of themselves (different lengths of courses, instead of international regulation, more aesthetic, non-compliant designs) and others are sold outright to new owners who have either dramatically changed the venue, or repurposed it altogether. Places such as university stadia and community arenas are booked 2-3 years in advance for many events, including many that have contracts in place and would breach if they, say, kicked out a concert booked there–and all others scheduled during the time it would take to bring the venues back into compliance–and lead to numerous lawsuits from every direction. Plus, most former host countries and cities are still paying off the bonds and excessive debt from their original building, and there would be little to no appetite for Governments (such as the Canadian government in this example) seizing back venues that are now in private hands, making wholesale alterations to revert venues back to regulation standards (and then back to their previous incarnations), canceling all reservations at ski resorts, rebuilding torn down apparata, canceling all concerts and sporting events that contracts are in place for, etc. Not to mention all the staff who have been relocated to Russia for advance teams, from the IOC and countries all over the world, who have leases and contracts, etc. It’s just not tenable to move the Olympics six months out. And as much as I agree with EVERYTHING George Takei says, and wish it were possible, I hate that this will now make the IOC, and various participant countries and Governments (including our own) look like they are siding “against” the LGBT community, by not backing this “reasonable” proposal and alternative to boycott. The problem is that with only six months to go in a planning and building process that takes 8+ years, they *can’t* do it, no matter how much they (like me) would like to.

  6. Bill says

    I’m not sure they can move the Olympics. In the original article, George Takei suggested Vancouver because the Olympic facilities are still in good condition, but that’s not the full story – spectators going need to book hotel space. It’s not clear that there is enough lead time for that. Also, people may have already purchases airline tickets to get to Sochi, so the airlines would have to cooperate and let them change their reservations free of charge. You’d also have to make sure that other events have not been scheduled at the nearby ski areas they would have to use.

    Too bad George Takei can’t play “Mr. Sulu” and threaten to beam one homophobic Russian politician to the surface of Venus (where it is literally hotter than the Biblical Hell*) for each person arrested under their anti-gay laws.

    * The surface temperature of Venus is about 462 degrees Celsius whereas the Biblical Hell, with its lake of fire and brimstone (sulfer), must be no hotter than 444.6 degrees Celsius, which is the boiling point of sulfer – at any higher temperature the lake of fire would no longer be a lake. (There’s a counter argument based on “soul pressure”, treating “souls” as an ideal gas, given the size of Hell and how nearly everyone ends up there according to most sects’ theology. The idea is that the pressure is so high that the boiling point goes up substantially. The counter-counter argument is that the size of Hell must be expanding rapidly or otherwise the “soul pressure” would make it harder to get in just when the demand to get in is at its highest.)

  7. YsoSerious says

    And when there are issues, the LGBT athletes and visitors are the ones who will suffer, because I can assure you OBushma and the IOC will say things that do nothing to correct the flaming idiocy that is Putin and his regime.

    Too bad the CIA can’t kill Putin.

    Oh, wait. They can.

  8. DoMANique says

    George Takei is just as bad as Putin! He uses his cis-privilege and penis to promote the gays, but what about us?! He is worse than Osama bin Laden! Think about my trans-compatriates skeletonizing down the hill only to be ensnared by a cis-trap at the end. I thought this was a lgbT website! Why do I have to read so much about the gays?! It needs to be at least 50/50!!!!!

  9. Ken says

    Totally agree, though highly doubt they will move the Olympics. We need to make sure that companies that sponsor these games and plan to advertise during the games understand they will face a boycott. I believe NBC has a lot of power here and if they know this is going to hurt revenue they will support the effort.

  10. deedrdo says

    noble idea. virtually impossible to pull off. but movements get started by a spark of an idea. george has put this out there. let’s see where it goes.

  11. will says

    If the Games could be changed it would make the strongest statement possible to the world community about homophobia. Just the act itself of moving them is a huge statement. But we have to have solidarity woth most of the countries — it can’t be just the United States calling the shots & bulldozing like we have a reputation for in the Middle East & elsewhere. It has to be a world community effort.

  12. jack says

    it is my understanding that vancouver has already signaled that it is able and willing to host the 2014 games. yes there would be a gigantic kerfluffle, but the financial and political embarrassment to russia would be off the charts, and a clear statement that a pogrom against its glbt citizens would not be tolerated in the modern world…

    only an action this dire can make that statement !

  13. DoMANique says

    You gays only care about yourselves. Who cares if a few of you cis-bros die? My zysters are killed everyday in your back yards! It true! Check Jezebel!

  14. Bob says

    HOW TO PLAY INTO THE HANDS OF PUTIN AND THE ORTHODOX CHURCH THAT BACKS HIM

    — pull out and be “the ones who spoiled the Games”

    Better to show up and show pride!

  15. Anastasia Beaverhousen says

    @BOB

    Yeah and then be jailed or killed on THEIR SOIL. But maybe you’re right, we do win either way. We can pull out and they’ll be embarrassed and remain a laughing stock or we’ll show up and they’ll do something utterly stupid and they’ll become an even bigger laughing stock and a global pariah.

  16. aregeejay says

    I agree with Takei. Move the games out of Russia. I believe Vancouver is the most logical place. It would take some work, but I have confidence in the greater Vancouver, Canadian, and US Olympic groups that the job can be accomplished. I’ve already written NBC demanding they pull their support for these “games.” Russia is an embarrassment to the true Olympic spirit.

  17. Jason B.p says

    I know it’s been said but in1936 the Germans were minimizing the public display of their anti-simetic laws and behavior to keep the Olympics from being moved. If more had been done early, disaster might have been avoided.

    What is going on in Russia certainly has Nationalist Socialist appearances. Make an enemy of a small minority to deflect the people’s attention away from the real problems. Putin has essentially become a dictator.

  18. emjayay says

    Russian authorities are ignoring the assaults on gays even when the perps are on video on the internet undisguised.

    And no one has mentioned it this time yet, so I will. It is of little importance whether Russia officially states gay or other tourists or athletes wearing a rainbow flag pin or something will not be arrested or beaten by police or anything.

    The issue is the insane anti-gay laws and ongoing cooperation of authorities in violence and discrimination against gays. That is not stopping one way or another.

    Assuming the Olympics will go on in Russian anyway, I certainly hope there will be organized visual pro-gay statements by gay and straight athletes all over the place. Frank Bruni in the NYT today suggested everyone pulling out rainbow flags and waving them as they march around the stadium in the opening. I thought of the same on the medal podium. Hopefully gay activists are thinking of other stuff to do.

  19. DoMANique says

    Do NOT call me an ideot! Your just showing your cis-male dominate privilege! George tacky is using his penis to make bio-males look good. We know how trans-phoboc ze is! He needs to use his suluism to represent uz! Gayz and lez’z are fine. Who cares if a few die? What about my trans zisterz and brotherz?

  20. BabyCakes says

    Russia got the way it is via isolationism.

    We know that our progress here in America was retarded by our invisibility. For decades.

    When we learned how to play the game, how to not be invisible, how to win over hearts and minds, THAT is when things here started to change. Slowly at first. Very slowly.

    Further isolating Russia from the outside world… We already know what that yields, now, don’t we ?

    I like George, I really do, but he’s wrong.

    Being there, interacting with the Russian people, that’s what matters.

    Think about it. We won over hearts and minds in America, and are still doing so, because we are seen now, we aren’t going back into our dark suburban bars to hide. We don’t have to anymore.

    If you want Russian GLBT’s to have a chance, don’t stay home feeling all smug and superior just because you dumped out some vodka.

  21. Stolidog says

    Well, if the Olympics do go on, and Russia hasn’t changed its laws, I would imagine that not many in the glbt community and our allies will be watching.

  22. kode says

    I agree with George, way to go man for saying it out loud!

    This is going to get ugly in the near future because we will be seeing comments of solidarity from many nations where they agree with Russia’s anti-gay views. Many countries will be wondering things from many different perspectives and there will be lot of bad things said about gays.

    It is not helping that probably in every country even with progressive views on homosexuality there still is quite a lot of homophobia. This is unfortunately a way for many to blame gays for trying to ruin the Olympics.

    But personally I don’t see any other choice than to boycott Russia in every way possible.

  23. Ryan says

    It boils down to this:

    Will Sochi be safe for LGBT people and allies during the Olympics, be they athletes, workers or spectators?

    The answer, at this point, has to be no, which means the IOC should have no choice but to move it (which seems unlikely) or cancel it altogether.

    Period.

  24. says

    I agree with George completely. Only when the country’s tourism industry and commercial brands are losing big money, will real pressure be applied to reverse Russia’s harmful, discriminatory policies. Change will NOT HAPPEN as long as hundreds of millions of dollars are rolling into Russia for this event — and it stands to gain even more as they’ll be using this controversy as a sideshow.

    There is still time for another country (most likely Canada) to prepare.

  25. says

    Russia is also refusing to repatriate the indigenous people of Sochi, the Circassians, who where exiled to Syria. Because of their minority status the Circassians living in Syria today are being targeted by both opposition and Assad regime.

    Russia has already granted asylum to Russians living in Syria and allowed them all to return, but will not do the same for the Circassians, who may I remind you are the Indigenous nation of Sochi. They have given around 700 individuals 3 month renewable visitors visas and believe this is enough. There are 100,000 Circassians living in Syria today scared for their lives and a good portion of that number wants to return to it’s homeland in the Caucasus.

    Russia has no regard for human life. And that is why any descent nation should boycott Sochi.

    For more information about the Circassian issue and other related topics concerning why Sochi is a horrible location for the Olympics, please visit:

    http://www.nosochi2014.com
    http://www.twitter.com/nosochi2014

  26. Doug says

    I know quite a few people in Vancouver who would welcome the games for a second time in a row. As you may know, most cities that host the Olympics lose money on them initially, Vancouver included, but that’s because of the cost of building the facilities outpaces revenue. If Vancouver hosted again and the existing facilities only needed some sprucing up, the city might make back its investment.

    Besides, it’s the right thing to do.

  27. gr8guyca says

    Vancouver.

    Or, at least, have the IOC begin to explore that possibility brought on by pressure from NBC. Why would NBC do this? Because a few corporate sponsors begin to have second-thoughts about their support.

    Just exploring the Vancouver option would sure put a scare into the Russians.

  28. Kevin thor says

    the Olympics are not moving. Russia is Russia. no one is being rounded up. Americans need to deal with gay hate here in our own nation before we start in on other nations. we NEVER learn.

  29. Adam says

    VANCOUVER 2014!

    ALL the venues are ready, there is a good deal of financing, more than enough hotel space, and more than enough volunteers at the ready to make it happen. It may have to be pushed back 1-3 months, but that’s a small price to pay. For those who have already bought tickets, hotels, flights etc. Sue the Russian government. An international class action lawsuit, seizing their international holdings to make restitution. It’s the RIGHT thing to do!

  30. Caliban says

    Recent events in Russia are so egregious that I believe the correct, moral thing to do is either boycott the Olympics or move them to a different venue.

    If you are against a boycott I respect your opinion but I’d ask you to consider one question. What exactly *would* it take for you to believe that a boycott is the right thing to do? A pile of dead bodies?

    However, the realist in me is saying that’s unlikely to happen. They could be putting the heads of gay people on spikes outside the Olympic stadium and the reaction from NBC and advertisers would be “But there’s money to be made!”

    So at this point I’m assuming the Sochi Olympics will happen as scheduled, with US participation. In that event, I think there should be an international movement to get gay athletes AND allies to adopt a uniform symbol that signifies their opposition to Russia’s current laws, perhaps a button or patch worn near the shoulder. For a comparison, imagine the impact it would have had if Olympiads had worn 6-pointed stars during the 1936 Olympics or some other symbol of solidarity with German (and other nations’) Jews.

    If enough athletes adopt the symbol it would make it impossible for the IOC or Russia to enforce their own rules without shutting the whole thing down and for network news coverage to ignore. If the Olympics in Sochi is going to happen, then make it the gayest Olympics ever, with all the discussion not directly related to sports dominated by Russia’s anti-gay laws.

  31. David Eddy says

    I don’t agree with a boycott. Instead as many participants as possible should wear rainbow pins at the opening ceremony. Let’s see how many are arrested.

  32. Gee says

    Why do people hate gays so much? We speculate about moving The Olympics” over the issue. Are we doing something wrong? We expend our energies drawing attention to ourselves? What’s so great about us? Why are we so despised? I say show up to the Games. It’s our tempest in a teapot. No one else cares.

  33. Caliban says

    Again I ask. What WOULD it take for you to be in support of the US pulling out of the Olympics?

    Someone being beheaded on camera? A pile of dead bodies?

    How much is too much for you?

    Exactly how far can Russia go with this before you draw a line?

  34. BabyCakes says

    The Olympics didn’t create the situation in Russia.

    The Olympics isn’t responsible for it, and most important, can not CHANGE ANYTHING there by just abandoning the games there.

    The Olympics isn’t going to be cancelled or moved.

    The US isn’t going to boycott.

    The international community of people planning to attend and participate in the games, are going to attend and participate.

    Reality. Try it out sometime.

    This is what’s going to happen. DEAL with it.

    And it’s a GOOD thing. More of the Russian People will be impacted, and changed, by the international presence than could EVER happen by other means.

    Dear Hysterical Queens portending to give two shits about Russian GLBT : PLEASE STFU and let the Olympics do what it’s designed to do. Expose host nations to the world, and foster participation and understanding in a competitive atmosphere.

    And stop making it everybody else’s problem, IF you cared, YOU’D DO SOMETHING THAT MATTERS.

    Posturing foolish trite sissies, leave the work to the people that ALWAYS end up doing it on your behalf, mmm kaye.

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