Simon Callow questions calls for Russian Olympic boycott

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Actor and director Simon Callow has questioned calls for a boycott of the Russian Winter Olympics Games in Sochi next year, claiming that: “boycotts are rarely effective, talking is.”

Appearing on the Daily Politics on BBC2, the openly gay actor debated calls for a boycott of the Games with Conservative MP Mark Hoban and Labour MP Chris Leslie, telling them that many gay people in Russia believed such action would do “more harm than good.”

64-year-old Callow, who said he knew from experience what it felt like to be treated like a “second class citizen,” compared Vladimir Putin’s anti-gay laws with Section 28 legislation that existed in England, Scotland and Wales between 1988 and 2003.

He said of Russia: “People are no longer protected by the law; they’re being forced back into the shadows.

“The state basically regards them as non-citizens.”

Callow said that instead of a boycott, he would prefer to see acts of solidarity with the Russian LGBT community, such as sending money to help fund activism from within the country.

He said that Putin was “playing to a constituency” with the legislation, but that “the more people that denounce it the more pressure Putin will get.”

He added: “I think the best thing that could happen would be for gay athletes to actually win and proclaim their gayness, just like Jesse Owens winning at the Olympics made a huge statement to the world.”

Recently, Number 10 described Vladimir Putin as “evasive,” after David Cameron raised his concerns about gay rights with him at a G20 meeting.

Simon Callow has been a vocal gay rights proponent in the past, describing equal marriage last year as “my right.”

He also criticised the decision to ban the Church of England from performing same-sex marriages, describing it as a “medieval idea.”