Ian Mckellen: If we boycotted the Olympics in Russia, they wouldn’t take place anywhere

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Sir Ian McKellen says Russia’s anti-gay laws are “appalling”, that he would do “almost anything” to help repeal repeal them, but boycotting next year’s Winter Olympics in the Russian city of Sochi is not the answer.

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, the gay actor and LGBT rights campaigner said: “If we were to not hold the Games because of internal politics of the country in question – probably they would never take place (anywhere).”

Boycotts could be staged for a whole host of other concerns, such as “America’s foreign policy”, the actor suggested.

“As a gay man, it is absolutely appalling to me that this law has been passed, which would inhibit me and any gay athletes who go to Russia for the Winter Olympics to be simply themselves”.

Sir Ian is worried that athletes could “fall fowl” of the legislation if they venture outside the Olympic Village during the Games.

“I would do almost anything to help repeal it – but it isn’t easy as a foreigner,” the actor said.

“I think what would be wonderful is if all the athletes, gay and straight, and the Olympic authorities were to make clear that they absolutely disapprove of it and they are going to ignore it, not because they don’t care, but because at the moment the spirit of the Olympics must take precedent.”

On Thursday, the International Olympic Committee declared the “magnificent” Olympic venues in Sochi ready for the 2014 Winter Games. 

IOC Co-ordination Committee Chairman Jean-Claude Killy dismissed concerns over Russian anti-gay legislation. “As long as the Olympic Charter is respected, we are satisfied,” he said.

President Vladimir Putin signed legislation in June banning the promotion of “non-traditional relationships” toward minors.