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Instead of boycott, group calls on IOC to host Sochi Pride House

Instead of boycott, group calls on IOC to host Sochi Pride House

A coalition that includes some of the largest international LGBT sports organizations is calling on the International Olympic Committee to host a Sochi Pride House at the 2014 Winter Olympics.

The request comes due to host Russia’s recently enacted anti-gay laws which have others calling for a complete boycott of the games.

The coalition, which includes the European Gay and Lesbian Sports Federation, the Federation of Gay Games, Pride Sports UK, and United for Equality in Sports and Entertainment, among others, made the request in a letter sent today to IOC President Jacques Rogge.

A Pride House is a venue welcoming LGBT athletes, fans, and others and their allies during international sporting events. The group wants such a venue in Sochi to be under the aegis of the International Olympic Committee. To ensure everyone’s safety there, they request that one or more members of the IOC would be present at all times.

‘Like you, we hope that no one involved in any way with the 2014 Games will have cause to fear the (anti-gay) federal legislation,’ they state in the letter to Rogge. ‘One way for you to demonstrate this is by hosting a Pride House in Sochi.’

The IOC has said it has received assurances from the highest levels of the Russian government that athletes and spectators at the Olympics would not be impacted by a new law banning ‘propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations.’

The law criminalizes any kind of support, no matter how modest, of the LGBT community and includes a provision that allows the Russian government to arrest foreign tourists for up to 14 days for supporting LGBT equality.

‘We believe in action that is concrete and goals that are attainable. We also believe in listening to our partners in Russia who tell us they don’t want a boycott,’ said Lou Englefield, director of Pride Sports UK and coordinator of the group which is working closely with the Russian LGBT Sports Federation and is rejects growing calls for a boycott.

‘Athletes should not bear the burden of Putin’s homophobic regime and what is in effect the complicity of the IOC,’ Englefield added. ‘A boycott punishes hard working athletes rather than challenging repression and those sports organizations which knowingly choose hosts that fail to respect the human rights proclaimed in their own charters.’

Marc Naimark of Federation of Gay Games says the IOC needs to step up when it comes to a Pride House.

‘If the IOC truly believes the assurances of Russian authorities, then the IOC should be able to override the existing ban on a Sochi Pride House and offer a venue for all to meet safely and with freedom of expression,’ he states.

Dean Nelson founded of the first Pride House at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and said it is a tradition that needs to continue.

‘No government, no politicians, can be allowed to turn back the clock,’ Nelson says. ‘We all must defend our athletes, coaches and trainers to ensure they are able to participate free from discrimination of any sort including sexual orientation, gender expression and gender identity.’

The group says its letter to Rogge is just the first step in action on Sochi and that they will be soon announcing other aspects of their campaign.