Vancouver proposes to send openly gay city councillor to Sochi Olympics
Published Wednesday, December 11, 2013 10:25AM PST
Last Updated Wednesday, December 11, 2013 1:00PM PST
As a human rights controversy continues to swirl around the 2014 Winter Olympics, the City of Vancouver has announced it will vote on whether to send an openly gay city councillor as its representative to Sochi, Russia.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson announced Wednesday Coun. Tim Stevenson wants to travel to Sochi in hopes of asking the Olympics' governing bodies to enshrine rights for LGBTQ people in the Olympic Charter.
Russia introduced sweeping anti-gay legislation this summer that makes it illegal to express pro-gay views – or even speak about homosexuality around children at the risk of fines or even jail time.
In a news conference, Robertson said Vancouver and Whistler were proud to host the first-ever Pride Houses during the 2010 Winter Olympics here.
"Sadly, as we are learning, this does not appear to be the case with the 2014 Sochi Winter Games," he said. "I'm dismayed to see the important progress we made here in Vancouver is being lost."
Though many pressed Olympic athletes to boycott the Games in light of Russia's crackdown on gays and lesbians, Robertson said sending Stevenson -- who has spent much of his career championing gay and minority rights -- will show solidarity and support with the LGBTQ rights movement.
Stevenson likened the cause to the end of apartheid in South Africa, a movement led by the late Nelson Mandela, who died last week.
"A man who understood that human rights must include everyone, regardless of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation," Stevenson said. "Our objective is not to challenge Russian policy nor to provoke an incident in Sochi, but to channel the support of the LGBTQ community in a positive direction."
Stevenson said his motion to ask the International Olympic Committee and other governing bodies to take a firm stance on gay rights is already gaining support from big-name Canadian athletes, including Olympic gold medlaists Ashleigh McIvor and Jon Montgomery.
In a statement, Montgomery said he was "thrilled" to have visited the Pride House Whistler and was disappointed athletes won't have the option in Sochi.
"I would hope that the IOC does whatever it can to protect the rights of its athletes," he wrote. "The IOC has the power, let's hope they use it for the benefit of progress and not just for profits."
City council will vote on Stevenson's motion on Dec. 17.
Pride House was adopted by the London Olympics for the 2012 Summer Games, and is expected to appear in Rio for the 2016 Games.