Vancouver proposes to send gay councillor to Olympics over gay crackdown

VANCOUVER – Vancouver, the host city that introduced “The Pride House” to the Olympics movement, could soon send its gay deputy mayor to Russia to fight against homophobia in sport.

City councillors are expected to endorse a resolution next week sending Coun. Tim Stevenson and two members of his Host City Pride House Mission Team to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

Once there, the team will ask officials with the International Olympic Committee and International Paralympic Committee to include a non-discrimination clause for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people in the Games’ charter and require future host cities to endorse pride houses in their bids.

The trip would come about eight months after Russia passed a law that bans “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” and imposes fines on people who stage gay pride rallies.

“This isn’t to challenge laws or to challenge the authorities,” Stevenson told reporters in Vancouver Wednesday. “I am going to try to convince the IOC that they need to change.

“This isn’t about trying to raise international incidents, and there will probably be others that may do that, I don’t know, but good luck to them. But I want to go to make sure that we speak to the IOC and get them to understand how important it is to include sexual orientation in their charter and how important it is to have a safe house in every Olympics from here on in.”

The resolution also calls on Olympic officials to “ensure the protection” of all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered athletes, coaches, officials, spectators and their allies in Sochi.

No one from the International Olympic Committee was available to comment by publication.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said he seconded Stevenson’s motion and will back it when it comes before council. Stevenson said later that he didn’t expect opposition from members of council.

Robertson said the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver featured the first pride house, which he called a safe place and resource centre for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered athletes and spectators.

“We held Games that welcomed the world,” he said. “Regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation, everyone was included, everyone was welcome here. Sadly, as we are learning, this does not appear to be the case with the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.”

Robertson said he is “dismayed” that the progress that was made in Vancouver is being lost in Sochi.

Stevenson said taxpayers won’t foot the bill for the trip, adding the city has set up a trust account to pay for the travel expenses of the three-person team. He said it has already raised $50,000 towards its $100,000 goal.

A city document handed out states the team will include Maureen Douglas, who was an Olympic organizer in Vancouver for eight years, and Dean Nelson, the co-founder of the pride house.

Bob Rennie, founder of Rennie Marketing Systems, said he and Peter Wall of the Wall Financial Corporation each donated $25,000 for the mission team’s trip.

Rennie said the issue is about human rights, not gay rights.

“I just really believe that if they came for you last night, they’re coming for me in the morning, and let’s just make sure that these things aren’t happening on the earth,” he said.

“What I really do like about what’s happened in Russia, it has galvanized the rest of the world to stand up and have more of a voice.”

In October, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the country’s athletes and fans would do their best so participants and guests would feel comfortable at the Olympics, “regardless of their ethnicity, race or sexual orientation.”

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