VANCOUVER – Activist and actor George Takei, best known as helmsman Lt. Sulu in the original Star Trek television series, is calling for the Games to move to Vancouver from Sochi to protest Russia’s anti-gay laws.
He’s the latest celebrity to weigh in on the Olympic controversy, endorsing a petition at Change.org that has already garnered over 45,000 supporters.
Russia “intends to enforce its laws against visiting LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender) athletes, trainers and fans, meaning anyone even so much as waving a rainbow flag (and I presume many men enthusiastically watching and dramatically commenting on figure skating) would be arrested, held for weeks and then deported,” he writes in a blog post last week.
“Given this position, the (International Olympic Committee) must do the right thing, protect its athletes and the fans, and move the 2014 Winter Olympics out of Russia.”
Takei notes Vancouver’s facilities are still in good condition and the city would be the easiest of possible alternatives. Moving the Games, he says, would be much better than a boycott — one of the options touted by some activists.
“A boycott of the games would punish athletes who have trained for years to participate, and a boycott of Russian vodka isn’t going to effect the kind of change needed,” he writes.
Takei says Russia’s ban on “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” and its imposition of heavy fines directly contravenes the IOC’s fundamental principals, and he argues such intolerance wouldn’t be accepted if it were aimed at Jews, Roman Catholics or Muslims.
Takei says moving the Games wouldn’t seem like an outlandish proposal if the discrimination was faced by those groups.
Thousands of Takei’s followers have already weighed in on the proposal.
“Don’t go to Russia and be beat by Putin, come to Canada to eat some poutine!” one poster, Kevin Dutrisac, writes on Facebook.
Although most commentators seem to be supportive, some question whether moving the Games will have the biggest impact.
“The best thing would be to expose the Russians’ outlandish laws by massive demonstrations. Entire national teams should march in and out of the ceremonies with rainbow pins,” writes Thomas McGowan in the comments section of Takei’s blog post.
British actor and writer Stephen Fry also called Wednesday for the Olympics to be moved, writing in a letter to British Prime Minister David Cameron and IOC executives asking them not to give Russian President Vladimir Putin “the approval of the civilized world.”
“It is simply not enough to say that gay Olympians may or may not be safe in their village. The IOC absolutely must take a firm stance on behalf of the shared humanity it is supposed to represent against the barbaric, fascist law that Putin has pushed through the Duma,” he writes in the letter, which he has since posted online.
“Let us not forget that Olympic events used not only to be athletic, they used to include cultural competitions. Let us realize that in fact, sport is cultural. It does not exist in a bubble outside society or politics.”