George Takei backs petition to move Russia Olympics to Canada over ‘horrific’ anti-gay laws

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Star Trek actor and gay rights activist George Takei has backed a petition to move the 2014 Olympic Winter Games from Russia to the 2010 host city Vancouver because of “horrific” anti-gay legislation.

The “Sochi: Winter of Hate” petition, which calls on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to move the Olympic games, has so far reached 130,000 signatures following the backing of George Takei.

The petition has also received the support of Anne Rice and Stephen Fry.

While some groups have called for petitions to boycott the games, Mr Takei said he wanted a solution that respects the athletes and the LGBT community.

The 76-year-old actor said: “A boycott is being greatly unfair to the athletes. They’ve been training for years.

“By boycotting you’re preventing them from competing What we need to do is move [the Olympics] out of Russia and place it where they can participate — in a safe place”.

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said on Thursday that critics of the new law needed to “calm down.”

He said: “I want to ask you to calm down as in addition to this law we have a constitution that guarantees all citizens a private life.

“It is not intended to deprive people of any religion, race or sexual orientation but to ban the promotion of non-traditional relations among the young generation”.

The law, passed in June, allows Russian police to fine, detain, and expel tourists and foreign nationals suspected of promoting gay “propaganda.”

Mr Takei said: “The Draconian laws that have been passed by Putin … essentially gives free licence to the hooligans and the thugs to assault people they might deem to be gay or lesbian.

“We cannot expose our athletes and their supporters, who might be gay or lesbian, to that kind of environment”.

Regarding Mr Mutko’s statements, Mr Takei said has “absolutely no faith” that thugs or police would respect the rights of LGBT visitors during the Olympics.

He added: “When they are assaulting people that they see as gay or lesbians, the police look the other way.

“And when they do act, they pepper spray not the hooligans but the gay and lesbian victims of their violence.”

He said the world should not be rewarding Russia for its “horrific” mistreatment of LGBT people.

Mr Takei drew comparisons to the hosting of the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, Germany, echoing Stephen Fry’s statements this week that Vladimir Putin “is making scapegoats of gay people, just as Hitler did Jews”.

He said: “Because the IOC provided that international stage for Adolf Hitler, more or less validating and lifting up his stature, and certainly gaining power in Germany, the horror of the Holocaust happened.”

He added: “We’ve got to learn from history.”

When questioned about the possibility of the Olympics actually being relocated on such short notice, Mr Takei acknowledged “the clock is ticking.”

But, he said: “If it can’t be done within the time that we have, then postpone it for another year so that the venue can be prepared”.

He pointed out that the Olympics are planned so far in advance (seven years) in order to construct the required facilities.

“In Vancouver, the venues exist and they’re in working condition,” he said.

However, Vancouver City Councilor Geoff Meggs told Global News on Wednesday: “It’s not just like cleaning up the guest room and putting on a clean sheet”.

Many of the facilities constructed for the 2010 Games have since been re-purposed, he explained.

The condominiums in Olympic Village have since been sold and are occupied by thousands of residents.

The Olympic Curling Venue is now the Hillcrest Community Centre.

Venues like the Richmond Oval and Rogers Arena are also already booked for events and programs six months from now, when the Winter Games are set to start.